Friday, September 8, 2017

#BookReview: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

On the jacket:

When powerful real-estate tycoon Nero Golden immigrates to the States under mysterious circumstances, he and his three adult children assume new identities, taking 'Roman' names, and move into a grand mansion in downtown Manhattan. Arriving shortly after the inauguration of Barack Obama, he and his sons, each extraordinary in his own right, quickly establish themselves at the apex of New York society.
The story of the powerful Golden family is told from the point of view of their Manhattanite neighbour and confidant, René, an aspiring filmmaker who finds in the Goldens the perfect subject. René chronicles the undoing of the house of Golden: the high life of money, of art and fashion, a sibling quarrel, an unexpected metamorphosis, the arrival of a beautiful woman, betrayal and murder, and far away, in their abandoned homeland, some decent intelligence work.
Invoking literature, pop culture, and the cinema, Rushdie spins the story of the American zeitgeist over the last eight years, hitting every beat: the rise of the birther movement, the Tea Party, Gamergate and identity politics; the backlash against political correctness; the ascendency of the superhero movie, and, of course, the insurgence of a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain wearing make-up and with coloured hair.
In a new world order of alternative truths, Salman Rushdie has written the ultimate novel about identity, truth, terror and lies. A brilliant, heartbreaking realist novel that is not only uncannily prescient but shows one of the world’s greatest storytellers working at the height of his powers.



Review:

I had a really hectic time last week and in the middle of it all, I'd started reading Salman Rushdie's The Golden House. With too many deadlines looming on my head, rarely does it happen that I can give undivided attention to any book even if I am reading only at bedtime. With this book, what happened is that I read the first chapter and was hooked. I wanted to know more. Mainly because the story seemed to be set in a very interesting time. This was a refreshing thing because every other attempt I've made of reading Rushdie had been exhausting and I've struggled with the process.

The Golden House begins with President Obama's inauguration ceremony. It is a story narrated by filmmaker René and is about Nero Golden and his sons. That explains the title of the book. The story starts slow and while I was getting overwhelmed and exhausted at places, it did manage to pull me in. 

The Golden family starts living next to René and what  I specifically loved was how distinctly the characters were defined. This made me stop and places and mull over characterisation since I happen to be studying about character sketches in my free time, these days. When I say reading the book however enjoyable, was exhausting for me, is because Rushdie is his masterful ways, has included everything from sexual identity, to migration, politics, art, culture, literature to autism to more nuances of life. Some of these required a little bit of googling for me, to understand exactly what the author is indicating, and might be the same for some other readers too.

René narrates the story about the Golden family and their troubles, hoping to find or create out of all the happenings. Being a film-maker, he had an eye for stories. A family of immigrants with nothing known of their past, they are rich beyond imagination and all of they are very secretive. That it is set in modern times made the story more interesting, however Rushdie's style of writing is not easy to follow. The story is of course well-written and as I said in the beginning, has the capability of pulling one in.




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#BookReview: BOMBAY FEVER: Medical Thriller by Sidin Vadukut

On the jacket:


In the bestselling tradition of Richard Preston’s now-classic medical thriller The Hot Zone and reminiscent of the blockbuster films Outbreak and Contagion, a fast-paced, page-turning thriller set in India about a deadly disease and the heroic efforts to contain the plague before it’s too late…


In the courtyard of a Hindu temple in Switzerland, a woman collapses in the arms of a visiting Indian journalist, her body reduced to a puddle of blood. Never before has anyone seen anything like this. Three months later, all over Mumbai, men, women and children are ravaged by a disease that begins with initially mild symptoms—that swiftly progress until an ultimately gruesome death. Who will it hit next? And where did it come from?

As the rogue microbe wreaks its bloody havoc—striking rich and poor, young and old—chaos ensues. Thousands try to flee the city, including the most powerful man in the country. Can this deadly plague be stopped? After all, all that stands between the city and apocalypse is a ragged team of doctors, civil servants, and scientists. But their intervention may be too little, too late.

Suspenseful and gripping from the first page to the last, Bombay Fever is a meticulously researched novel—too plausible to ignore and too chilling to put down—from one of India’s most talented writers.

Review:

The last time I'd read medical thrillers was when I was going through a Robin Cooki phase in my teens. After some time, I'd stopped reading those and never picked another medical thriller. The reason was simple, most of the things were too out of my radar and took a lot of my attention to enjoy the book, however gripping the plot was.
While I've written Sidin's work before, this was unchartered territory, that too something as serious as medical thriller. But I know him to be a funny guy, on twitter and in his books. With mixed emotions, and a lot of curiosity, I picked up the book.
And ever since I have been done reading, I have been petrified. Because what the story talks about is not far-fetched or unimaginable. Language is simple and not a brain-racker for those who are not deep into science or medical languages. The plot is one dimensional, easy to follow and what I love about stories - right from page one, I could imagine the story, as if a reel is playing in my mind.
And, the plot is gripping. It begins at Switzerland, with a character who is a journalist, who meets a student-part time worker, there is a Hindu temple and a death. The dead body is nothing but blood and with the journalist, some unknown virus comes to India. Similar deaths keep happening here while the virus spreads. True to Sidin's signature style, humour was not missing in this story.
If I have to critique the story, there was one thing I was unhappy with. It is a very common habit amongst Indian authors where they take common brand names, this the name a bit and use that name. Why don't we create new names instead? Wish the politician's surname was something an existing commonly known politician didn't share. There is no dearth of surnames in India, and one always has the liberty to create new names!
Fast paced and gripping, the plot's integral character as the title suggests, is Bombay. While the epidemic spreads in the story, my heart too paced at a high speed - curious about what lay next, and worried about what if this actually happens. Politics, journalism, media and history - Sidin has included them all in the plot cleverly.
While I can say I loved the book, and you all must read it if you love fast paced thrillers, I'll tell you what I actually felt. Reading Bombay Fever made me happy that I could read a medical thriller without feeling stupid. It also made me happy that a well-written medical thriller was based on an India metro city. And it made me very happy that an Indian author made me remember Forsyth and Cook.
Rating: ****/5





Saturday, July 29, 2017

#BookReview: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

On the jacket:

'I find writing novels a challenge, writing stories a joy. If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden.'

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all. 

Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic.

Review:

I love short stories. To read, to write, to review and to gift. However, I have never been a great fan of Murakami's. The last time I'd read a book by him was a few years ago, and though I have a few of his unread titles at home, I never went back to them. I will now, and the review of Men Without Women will explain exactly why. 
Men Without Women is every bit a Murakami, except his trademark weirdness, if I can take the liberty to call it that. As the title of the book suggests, the theme of the stories is - men coping without women. Murakami has stuck to the theme with a fine grace, not delving too much into emotions to make the stories forlorn, and not making them too harsh either. What I particularly liked is how true the plots are. For instance, I have known men who have had to live life without their women - some widowed, some divorced, some single and having lost their mothers and some, after a break up. We don't talk much bout how men grasp such situations and deal with them. We forget that men are not actually taught how to deal with such loneliness. But they do, in their own way and Men Without Women  brings that out in different stories and situations, beautifully!
Earlier, Murakami's style of writing had bothered me. But I learnt to appreciate it while reading this book. Don't pick it up if you want to known what his style is, though. 
The stories are around male protagonists who are living rather lonely lives. But these are not very simple stories. While in one, the protagonist learns that an old lover had killed herself, in another the main character is a roach. Yes, a roach who wakes up to see that he is a human. This particular story has been haunting me for a while - I've been thinking since the last few days - how even did this idea come to the author's mind! Reverse Kafka-esque. 

A wonderful read.

Rating: ****/5

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#BookReview: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

On the jacket:

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent, from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city, to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war. 

The tale begins with Anjum—who used to be Aftab—unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her, including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover. Their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo’s landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul, and then we meet the two Miss Jebeens. The first is a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard. The second is found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi.

As this ravishing, deeply humane novel braids these lives together, it reinvents what a novel can do and can be. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness demonstrates on every page Arundhati Roy’s storytelling gifts.

Review:

I had barely entered my teens when I'd laid my hands on The God of Small Things. I will be honest, it didn't make much sense to me. I won't be harsh on myself for not understanding the brilliance of the story, because I'd tried to read it at a wrong time. A decade later, I'd read it again, and the story became a part of my life. I wouldn't say I was impatiently waiting for The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, because all the positive and negative news that had built around it, had left me a tad worried. It's a story - why not read it as one? Then the reviews came and all views were so extreme. That is when I decided I wanted to read this book and find out for myself.
I took a week to read The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Because, a story like this needs to be savoured. Also, because there are parts where I could not distinguish between fact and fiction, and needed to take time off from reading.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness begins with talking about Anjum who lived in a graveyard. She was an outcast of the society and the only respectable human interaction she had was with the maulvi who'd come to meet her. The first few chapters tell us about Anjum's life from birth. The third born to her parents, Anjum was born as Aftab and for years her mother had hidden the fact that she was born a transgender, from the world. Long story short, her parents tried a lot to 'cure' her physical situation but Anjum was not to be tied down - she flew the nest and went to live in the House of Dreams and finally sheds the garb of being Aftab. How Anjum reached to a graveyard from the House of Dreams has been told in an engrossing tale.
Anjum is not the only protagonist in the story. A few chapters down, we are introduced to an illegitimate child, Tilo and her relationship with Musa. Shortly after the time these characters in introduced in the story, the plot involves a lot of social-economic-political events and factors which connect fiction with reality. To be honest, this is were I would get slightly confused and even wonder if I should continue but curiosity got the better of me and I crossed this part to reach a beautiful end.
I will not rate the book. Not because I have any biases. But let's be honest, my rating would not affected a book written by someone of Ms Roy's stature. Too much seems to have been said, and lot of it is biased. Ms Roy is an activist and the book shows dark shadows of being written by one, at some stages. At other stages of the story, you can see a wonderful writing traversing through the plot, creating a beautiful and heartwarming tale for you to read. Pick it up with an open mind and see how you interpret The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.



Monday, June 12, 2017

#CoverReveal : AGAINST ALL ODDS by Danielle Steel

Taking chances is part of life,
   but when you bet your future against the odds, it’s a high-risk game …

AGAINST ALL ODDS 
by Danielle Steel


Featuring an exclusive foreword by the author.

Kate Madison's stylish second-hand clothing shop has been a big success in New York, supporting her and her four kids since her husband's untimely death. Now her children have grown up and are ready to forge lives of their own. They all choose to play against the odds, much to their mother's dismay . . .

Isabelle, a dedicated attorney, is in line to make partner at her Wall Street firm, when she falls for a client she represents in a criminal case. She tells herself she can make a life with him - but can she? Julie, a young designer, meets a man who seems too good to be true and falls under his spell. She marries him quickly, gives up her job, moves to LA to be at his side, ignoring the danger signs. Is all what it seems? Justin is a struggling writer who pushes for children with his partner before they're financially or emotionally ready. Will the strain on the relationship take too high a toll? Willie, the youngest, a tech expert, makes a choice that shocks them all, with a woman fifteen years older . . .

Kate - loving, supportive and outspoken - can't keep her children from playing against the odds. Can the odds be beaten? No matter how much she loves him, in the end, the risks are their own and the hardest lesson as a mother is that she can't protect them from the choices they make.
---
Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world's most popular authors, with nearly a billion copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Property of a Noblewoman, Blue, Precious Gifts,Undercover, Country, Prodigal Son, Pegasus, A Perfect Life, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina's life and death; A Gift of Hope, a memoir of her work with the homeless;and the children's books Pretty Minnie in Paris and Pretty Minnie in Hollywood.

Monday, May 29, 2017

#BookReview: Baaz by Anuja Chauhan

About the book:


Why do they call you Baaz?  It means falcon, he replies solemnly. Or bird of prey. Because I swoop down on the enemy planes just like a Baaz would.  Then he grins. The grey eyes sparkle. It s also short for bastard.   1971. The USSR-backed India-Mukti Bahini alliance is on the brink of war against the America-aided Pakistani forces. As the Cold War threatens to turn red hot, handsome, laughing Ishaan Faujdaar, a farm boy from Chakkahera, Haryana, is elated to be in the IAF, flying the Gnat, a tiny fighter plane nicknamed Sabre Slayer for the devastation it has wrecked in the ranks of Pakistan s F-86 Sabre Squadrons.   Flanked by his buddies Raks, a MiG-21 Fighter, Maddy, a transport pilot who flies a Caribou, and fellow Gnatties Jana, Gana and Mana, Shaanu has nothing on his mind but glory and adventure until he encounters Tehmina Dadyseth, famed bathing beauty and sister of a dead fauji, who makes him question the very concept of nationalism and whose eyes fill with disillusioned scorn whenever people wax eloquent about patriotism and war...   Pulsating with love, laughter and courage, Baaz is Anuja Chauhan's tribute to our men in uniform.

Review:

With Baaz, Anuja Chauhan has moved to newer territories. In her previous books, she has won hearts with her relatable stories and simple, flowing language which most Indian readers identify with.
One thing I have always loved about Chauhan's stories is how she brings people from very different backgrounds in each story. Here in Baaz, we have Ishan Faujdar and Tehmina Dadyseth, both from worlds completely different, but whose paths cross because of one common string - the Indian Defence Service. While Ishaan, who has grown up knowing that he was a bastard, yet in the middle of a loving family, joined the Indian Air Force because of his love of the uncertainty and playing daredevil, Tehmina, on the other hand came from an Army family and had lost family member to war. He hated the neighbouring country we are never at peace with, while she hated war because it killed people. I must add that this angle and the way Anusha has treated it, is very well done keeping in mind the current situation in India. 
As a story, Baaz is a great attempt. Baaz here comes from more than one thing; not just the bird. The war scenes are decently executed and I must say that Chauhan has braved and written a story surrounding quite a volatile plot. 
What didn't work for me was that I felt Chauhan was trying too hard. This is a personal opinion, but when I am reading in English, I am reading in English. Yes, the characters and the story are India, but the medium of writing is English. Though it is largely accepted these days, Hindi words peppered in places specially where expletives need to be used spoil the experience for me. I'd feel the same if English was used in any story written in one of a regional languages. When a character is abusing in raw Hindi, and then the rest of the sentence is completed in perfect English, its unsettling and very forced.
While I keep suggesting and gifting Chauhan's books all this time, this one didn't make the mark for me. The plot takes quite a while to pick up and the romance is pretty bland. Also, I am still not sure if the story wanted to say that humanity is above all or if, for the nation, every other moral can be compromised. Lastly, the ending disappointed me, to be honest. 

Rating: ***/5




Friday, May 26, 2017

#Review : Pocket Mummy - an ode to Motherhood!



Pocket Mummy- an ode to Motherhood!


Nitesh Ranglani's short feature, Pocket Mummy, produced by Suburban Diagnostics, released digitally by Humaramovie, on occasion of Mother's Day. The film features acclaimed veteran actress Madhoo Shah as the Mother and Parzaan Dastur as her son.

Pocket Mummy is a story about a single mother, and the bond between her and her son.

Pocket Mummy is Nitesh Ranglani's directorial debut  and he says “Pocket Mummy is a very simple story, between a mother and a son, that everyone will relate to. I couldn't have got anyone better than Madhoo Ma'am and Parzaan to play the parts. Madhoo Ma'am had earlier worked with my dad on Yeshwant and it's a great feeling directing her today. Parzaan fits the character perfectly and both have done a wonderful job. Digital is a big medium today and we're hoping to reach out to many with our labour of love''


Actress Madhu said "I am very excited to work on this project. I've always been a very emotional person and I believe a lot in  connections. I have earlier worked with Mr Vijay Ranglani, he was the producer of my film Yeshwant with Nana Patekar and now his son Nitesh is directing me. It is a beautiful feeling to associate with them. Also I love being a mother and as a woman I have a lot of things to say and I'm sure this film will be adored and loved by all"


Review:

Pocket Mummy is a short film I saw after quite some time and was delighted to see Madhu and now a grownup, Parzaan Dastur. A beautiful film of only 6 minutes, but it managed to managed to convey some most important emotions and messages.
Paizaan is Madhu's son and they share an extremely loveable and fun relationship which includes a lot of fun and comfort between them. Both brilliant actors, who have been brought together by a director who shows definite signs of making it very big, soon, have played their roles with absolute elan. Brilliant direction, with a very fine eye to detail.
I wouldn't delve much into it, rather, here is the link for you to watch! Show it to you mother too; the film being a beautiful tribute to all mothers. Give your mother a hug; and sit up. It's time for you to give back to the one person who has loved you selflessly from even before you were born!

#BookReview: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

On the jacket: When powerful real-estate tycoon Nero Golden immigrates to the States under mysterious circumstances, he and his three...