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Review: I Wrote Your Name In The Sky And Yours And Yours Too

By Nikhil Chandwani. Grade: C

Mr. Chandwani, the author, is a writer, lyricist and a poet and currently pursuing his engineering degree from VIT Vellore. ‘I wrote your…’ is Mr. Chandwani’s first book and according to him, it’s an autobiography of a flirt. This book gave me a bad feeling for the first time when I looked at the grammatically incorrect title. The cover is targeted at the Facebook-Generation by the looks of the troll face and the blue background, but it’s very poorly designed.

This book is about a flirt. It’s a dairy of a flirt. A flirt who was an introvert. A flirt who didn’t knew what flirting means. A flirt who started with a broken heart and broke many hearts. Check out this awe-inspiring teenage journey. Check out why cheats exist. Check out why people break hearts. It’s full of confusion, lust, romance and love in the universe of teenagers

The back blurb on the book gives only a blurred idea of the book. The only thing you can get out of it is confusion and a vague idea of what it is about.

It’s just another story that deals with the great teen-age Every-Girl-Loves- Me confusion. The book is full of lust, a craving for physical satisfaction, where the protagonist, Nikhil, falls in love with every girl he comes across. The word ‘love’ factors in nowhere.

Mr. Chandwani claimed that the book is written as a diary but apart from a few chapters/sub-chapters, it was more like a regular narration. Every incident seems exaggerated. The language has no grip to keep the narration interesting. However, there are many poems and some of them are really good and seems more mature than the book itself. There are some sketches which are very immature and barely go with the context  where they are used.

With no story, no characters, and no writing, Mr. Chandwani authored ‘I Wrote Your…’ and really disappointed me. In keeping with the blurb “A flirt who was an introvert”, the book tells nothing but the story of one-sided-attraction. With over-sized typeset and extended line spacing, and it took me only an hour to read the entire book and half an hour to re-read it.  (I’d not have read it again if it wasn’t for review). It’s just a paperback version of the post-American Pie dream of a self obsessed protagonist.

If Mr. Chandwani plans to take writing as a serious career, he has a lot of rethinking to do.

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Review: Left From Dhakeshwari

By Kunal Sen: Grade A+

Mr. Kunal Sen is a multi talented personality. He is an investment manager by profession and an actor, director, writer, film reviewer and book reviewer by choice. ’Left from Dhakeshwari’ is a collection of nine short stories and his first solo book. When I read the name, I assumed that Dhakeshwari was a place, but upon reading, I realized that it is a temple in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dhakeshwari literally means Goddess of Dhaka, which I find interesting.

A collection of nine tragedies, nine stories; stories of urban loneliness, lust, death, obsession, memories and marriages, but found together in seductive melancholy when you are or when you have.. left from Dhakeshwari. The title denotes a dimension that’s both a time and a place: a point of departure and the forbearer of journeys. Pensive women with souls of poetesses and violent men with eyes of children, the characters in these interconnected stories are also in search, of a time and place they can call their own.

In ‘Bomb Church’, Aniruddha tries to piece together his mother’s identity after her mysterious departure; the only clues available in the existential whodunit being: a soap-box, a brown shoe and the statements of five witnesses, while ‘Salt Lake’ recounts an unusual affair between a girl with a three-inch scar on her cheek and a mime-artist with scars of his own.

Other characters in this collection include a runaway teenage-girl, an agoraphobic writer, a Bengali film actress, a sadistic guitar player, identical twins, a ghostess, and a manic-depressive housewife. These people are at that point in their lives when their cherubic idealism is beginning to fade into disillusionment. They are young but uprooted, rebellious but rudderless.

These are stories of their lives.

Let’s begin with the book jacket. A black background and a mime artist with closed eyes makes for an attention catching cover, and also goes well with the concept of the book.

The back cover gives the outline of the book. It’s a collection of nine short stories that straddle between the tragic, dramatic and mildly surreal, but it remains, in the end, a book about life stories of people who lived to their depths and failed in one way or another.

The short stories are more targeted than regular novels and ensure that the subtle moments of change are captivating for readers. If you believe that short stories are lighter reads and that you can read them in random order, I suggest not trying the same with ‘Left From…’ because it’s written in a specific order; one that shows how all characters are interconnected. Reading them one after another helps in understanding the relation between stories and characters. However, the characters from a story are only a reference in another, and they join the story at a point where you least expect them to.

Mr. Sen has chosen a Bengali background for most of his stories and the usage of so many native words provides authenticity to the characters. A glossary for such words is provided at the end of the book, so whenever you’re stuck on a word such as Choto Cheley or Didun, flip to end of book and search for the meaning.

Mr. Sen has done a great job with his remarkable language. Every story of ‘Left from…’ is so alive that you can actually see it happening right in front of you. Descriptions of places, emotions, the minute details and the psychology of characters makes for a perfect narration. The language is somewhere between the beginning and end; it keeps you dwelling between your own intriguing thoughts and the writer’s perspective.

Language is a major point of concern in most Indian authors, but Mr. Sen has taken it to a new height. His language is sharp, melodramatic, expressive and pensive. When there is a lesser backdrop, it serves as a counterfoil. There is no humor, no intentions of confusing the reader and no dramatic twists, and yet, none of the nine stories disappointed me.

Before concluding my review, I would like to quote Mr. Sen:

This is likely to resonate with anyone who has ever felt dislocated, loved Murakami, cried at nights, searched for happiness, drenched in the rains, written poetry on newspaper margins, including anyone born after Guevara’s assassination and before Babri Masjid’s.

To conclude, I’ll just sat that each story, every page, every line in the book is written in a very thought-provoking manner and after every story, you will find yourself engulfed with the characters depicted. If you want to read a book that is extraordinarily excellent, ’Left from Dakeshwari’ is just the book for you. It is a must read for everyone who understands literature…or wants to.

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Review: Little LuckNow

By Nitya Prakash. Grade: B

They say “Rain is the season of love and when it rains, love flows in the air”.

This monsoon VoB sent me an author signed ARC of ‘Little LuckNow’ by bestselling author Nitya Prakash.  Mr. Prakash has two bestseller in his account viz ‘Dear, I hate You’ and ‘In the name of Love,R.I.P’.

Can a kid fall in love and actually mean it?

Anyone can be in love, it has nothing to do with your age.

It’s a feeling like sad and happy but love is just harder to find, when you love someone that’s it you don’t wait until you are an adult, you simply love them.

Love is lot like living for kids.

Anyone can fall in Love. Right?

But, Can a kid die for his love and actually mean it?

We talk of the cover first.  On the book jacket of A Little LuckNow is the image of a cute little child. The idea is quite innovative and thus it looks very inviting. The cover is designed by Mr. Prakash himself and the image is credited is to the famous photographer Lauren Fitzgerald. However, the blurb clearly gives an idea of the plot, that is, a love story of a child, and most probably a sad one.

The prologue is  beautifully written and gives a clear view of the story coming ahead. The only thing that irked me was that it had too small a font and that a quote of Nicholas Stone  had been credited to Oscar Wilde.

It starts with a date, 26 January, 2001, the date when a massive earthquake rocked Gujarat. The same time we are introduced to our protag Kapil Oberoi. In his teens, Kapil is an eighth grader. The first thought in my head was that ‘I was in eighth grade too when it happened’ followed rapidly by, ‘I am reading the love story of a fourteen-year-old!’. But as the abstract said “Anyone can be in love, it has nothing to do with your age.”

Mr. Prakash describes how Kapil lived his school days, and how he started feeling something indescribable and mysterious about a girl called Prerna, his classmate. The backdrop is that of Lucknow, but there is almost nothing about the city, because since all the characters are from the same school, every event has taken place within its premises.

The book was a breezy read. It is on the lighter side in terms of the number of pages, too. With a total number of pages is 155 and the story merely contained in the 130 pages, it can very well be finished within a few hours.

I must say that Mr. Prakash has great storytelling capabilities, because while reading it, he made me feel as if I was a part of the story. Sometimes as Kapil or sometimes as a classmate, who was observing everything. The understanding of child psychology has taken the story a little above than ‘just another teenage love story’.

There is a chapter that described rain and the feelings associated to it. It’s my favorite chapter because every single emotion was beautifully described. The chapters are reasonably written, and without many twists and turns they proceed swiftly.

One unusual thing I noticed in Little LuckNow was that the chapter headings are not in the same margin, i.e., a few chapters start a little above the half page mark, while some start below it. It looked like a page extension policy.

There is one big thing that I really want to point out. Whenever we read any books by Indian authors, we presume that there will be many grammatical and spelling mistakes and with time, immunity against such mistakes has been developed in many readers. A few spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are alright, but if you read a word that means something entirely different, completely out of context, what will your reaction be?

Before I’d picked the book up, I had made a mental note to not look for spelling mistakes on my first read. I have read Mr. Prakash’s previous work, In the name of Love, R.I.P. It was well edited and apart from a few errors, nothing much stood out. Unfortunately, I had to ignore the note after I spotted one right in the blurb – a YOUR instead of You Are. Having a spelling mistake on cover page is absolutely criminal. Especially after the criticism faced by many Indian Publishers for giving no heed to editing, this absolute carelessness on the Publisher’s part. Simple words such as ‘Plane’ and ’Diary’ are written as ‘plain’ and ‘dairy’ respectively, and these two words are from the first chapter only. I found no chapter without any spelling or grammatical mistake. Really strange, especially when you know that the author wouldn’t make such disastrous errors, having read other novels by him.

To conclude, I would say that Mr. Prakash has written a beautiful and innocent love story from a child’s perspective and undoubtedly kept it simple, sweet and clean. Though there are no twists and turn in the story, the climax more than made up for that. It’s intense and  really sad.

Better editing would have made the read more captivating. If you want to read a decent young adult fiction, Little LuckNow is for you, but if you find the love story of a fourteen-year-old impossible to happen, then it will only upset you.

I wish Mr. Prakash Good Luck, for his upcoming book Maya, and suggest to him to look into editing more personally now onwards.

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Review: An Idiot, Placements and IntervYOU

By Toffee. Grade: A

There are many engineers who have turned into authors successfully, while many are either writing a novel or dreaming of being the next Chetan Bhagat. Toffee a.k.a .Taufeeq Ahmed is another engineer-turned-author, who made his debut with ‘An Idiot, Placement and IntervYOU’. Before you start reading the back blurb, I must tell you about the jacket design. I found it very interesting, just like the name.

An Idiot, Placement and IntervYOU is the story of an engineering student, who talks about how-not-to-flunk placement interviews.

An Idiot, who was a topper in his school all his life, joins one of the finest engineering colleges. And then, like many engineering students, he spends most of his time enjoying the beautiful days of his college life and, in due course, neglects his studies completely. But when he comes to his final year of engineering, one question starts haunting him – ‘What next?’. Its then he starts taking life seriously, does his best and gets placed in his dream company.

A year later, he feels like sharing his experiences with the world and starts writing a simple novel-like book on placements and interviews in a funky, narrative and interesting style.

Welcome to ‘An Idiot, Placements and IntervYOU’.

Right after reading the synopsis, I had the feeling that I would like this book. The initial five pages are about the intentions of the author and the story behind the book. From flipping through these pages I knew that the book was different, entirely different, from those pulp fiction that we usually read by the innumerable engineer-turned-authors flooding the market these days.

The book is intelligently arranged in chapters, strictly according to the rounds of an interview and the narration is really simple. So simple, in fact, that I finished the book in merely four hours. The font is rightly sized and the paper quality is very good.  And, in my experience, when the paper quality is good, any book becomes a lot more fun to read. The plot is no Dan Brown rip off. It’s a simple story about an idiot and how he messed up his engineering years and placement interviews.

The one thing I didn’t like was the use of the many gonna-wanna-gotta sentences that are becoming quite common in day-to-day language with youngsters. When it comes to writing, however, they shouldn’t be used excessively. The target audiences of An idiot…  are final year engineering graduates and if they start using such words in their interviews, it CAN create a bad impression. Leaving that aside, the narration, as I’ve mentioned before, is simple superb. It’s racy and very interesting, and I felt like I was attending a Pre-Interview class.

There are many modified versions of quotes that we read often and examples of people who either succeeded or failed in life.
The most important thing about the book is, every page, every example, everything will teach you something that you might have known for years but never looked at in that way. In Mr. Taufeeq’s own words, “as simple as the word simple”. I must appreciate Mr. Ahmed’s effort to write a non-conventional book in an extremely simple and informative way.

There is a beautiful quote in book that says “You will never know true happiness until you have truly loved, and you will never understand what pain really is until you have lost it.” True to that spirit, the author confessed he wrote this book after he lost his love. But unlike others, he decided to write an unofficial guide to crack interviews and succeeded in it. I am a Software Engineer by education and profession, and have cracked many interviews earlier, so it was quite like reading the same things that I have done, seen or experienced already. But for freshers, if there is any book that they should read before preparing for interviews, it’s An Idiot, Placements and IntervYOU by Toffee.  I want to congratulate Mr. Taufeeq for writing a book that promises infotainment and standing out of the crowd by thinking out of the box. This book will help many engineering students in a completely new way.

On a personal note, thank you for giving me a book that I can gift many of my cousins, juniors and friends.

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Review: The Diamond Queen

By Andrew Marr. Grade: B+

With London Olympics going on, I received a copy of ‘The Diamond Queen’ by Andrew Marr, and since history is gradually becoming my favorite subject, I started flipping the pages right then. The book was written during research for a documentary series on Queen Elizabeth II for BBC. However, according to author’s note, it’s not an officially authorized book. Andrew Marr is a renowned journalist and famous historian and his book about monarchy and its influence holds a cult status.

Elizabeth II, one of England’s longest-reigning monarchs, is an enigma. In public, she confines herself to optimistic pieties and guarded smiles; in private, she is wry, funny, and an excellent mimic. Now, for the first time, one of Britain’s leading journalists and historians gets behind the mask and tells us the fascinating story of the real Elizabeth.

Born shortly before the Depression, Elizabeth grew up during World War II and became queen because of the shocking abdication of her uncle and the early death of her father. Only twenty-five when she ascended to the throne, she has been at the apex of the British state for nearly six decades. She has entertained and known numerous world leaders, including every U.S. president since Harry Truman. Brought up to regard family values as sacred, she has seen all but one of her children divorce; her heir, Prince Charles, conduct an adulterous affair before Princess Diana’s death; and a steady stream of family secrets poured into the open. Yet she has never failed to carry out her duties, and she has never said a word about any of the troubles she has endured.

The book deals with five aspects of the Queen Elizabeth II: her past, her present, her future, her work and her responsibilities. With a book that deals with a rich history of longest sustaining monarch, it’s really easy to end up with a highly overwritten account, but Mr. Marr struck the right balance between being informative, but still retaining the reader’s interest.

According to Mr. Marr, the Queen is one who holds a lot of authority, but has no decision-making power. For millions of people in Great Britain and the world, she is phenomena of hope and continuity. For sixty years, she has managed the discretion so adroitly that everyone feels a mysterious aura around her. She works as an adhesive between the State and government along with giving a personal touch to countrymen. She is a mother, grandmother, wife, aunt, horse owner, manager of farms, employer of royal staff and overall accountant-in-chief! He has maintained a particular emphasis on the amount of work she does.

Mr. Marr traced the roots of the Queen’s family and collected a lot of information about her influential years. After reading, I had a clear sight of decisions taken by the Royal family in the past and present. Mr. Marr’s language is quite lively, unlike other history books. Throughout the read, I felt a voice narrating me page by page, event by event. Mr. Marr’s writing ensures that personal anecdotes are in right amount to keep the narration on the right pitch. Long chapters are broken to make book livelier and helped in giving depth to the book. He tried hard to be unbiased towards the monarch and maintained it throughout the book, except for parts where Lady Diana’s life discussed. Initially I was not certain if I will be able to read it like other books, but Mr. Marr’s research captivated me and I read it in shorter than my usual duration. The icing on the cake were the fifty one rare photographs that will leave an imprint on your memories forever.

To conclude, I would say that this is a treat for any History buff, and is more entertaining than a lot of thrillers, what with the deaths and mysteries and castles and kings.



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Review: The Drop

By: Michael Connelly.  #17 in Harry Bosch Series. Grade: B

Michael Connelly, a former journalist, is a master at mixing the realistic details of police work and legal procedures with excellent character detailing of his investigative protagonists.  Back in 2009 I read The Closure which was his eleventh book in the Harry Bosch series, and became his diehard fan. Now, in 2012 I got my hands on The Drop, his seventeenth book in the same series, and couldn’t wait to get started.

Harry Bosch has been given three years before he must retire from the LAPD and he wants cases more fiercely than ever. In one morning, he gets two.

DNA from a 1989 rape and murder matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Was he an eight-year-old killer or has something gone terribly wrong in the new Regional Crime Lab? The latter possibility could compromise all of the lab’s DNA cases currently in court.

Then Bosch and his partner are called to a death scene fraught with internal politics. Councilman Irvin Irving’s son jumped or was pushed from a window at the Chateau Marmont. Irving, Bosch’s longtime nemesis, has demanded that Harry handle the investigation.

Relentlessly pursuing both cases, Bosch makes two chilling discoveries: a killer operating unknown in the city for as many as three decades, and a political conspiracy that goes back into the dark history of the police department.

In typical Connelly way, without giving much of the plot, the story proceeds with Detective Bosch being assigned seemingly two unrelated cases at once. The first case leads them to Clayton Pell, a sex-offender, whose DNA evidence was found on the victim’s body. But as they investigate further, they find that when the crime took place, Pell was just eight years old. Before Bosch can go further, he is assigned another case, that of Councilman Irving’s son, who was found dead on a hotel’s sidewalk. When Councilman orders LAPD to call Bosch for the investigation, Harry is immediately anxious because their personal rapport is not all that great.

The title The Drop has two meanings: the first can refer to the suicide of Councilman’s son and  the other to Deferred Retirement Option Plan, that is 39 months for Harry.

In The Drop, Connelly continues his legendary writing style of letting readers know about the case first, then about an obvious suspect who seems perfect for the job. Later during the investigation, other characters join and make the case more and more complicated. This plot line works well, except for the fact that The Drop suffers from an acute lack of depth in its characters. Except for Harry Bosch, I found most characters being stuffed in the story. Bosch’s daughter, fifteen year old Maddie, somewhere added a bit of interest, but only in her hopes of  joining LAPD as a detective and inheriting the legacy of Bosch. I read somewhere that the author has decided to end the Harry Bosch series soon and probably that’s the reason why he showed this softer side of Bosch. He presented him as a sincere father of a teenage girl and showed his inclination towards a middle aged woman, Dr. Stone. We see that Bosch has clearly grown older and ornery.

Connelly’s language lost its edge this time; it engaged me but failed to evoke the cerebral investigation feel. There are twists and surprises but almost all are predictable. For me, the reading experience was more of reading two short stories somehow enmeshed solely for the purpose of making a four hundred forty eight page novel. With two such strong cases, Connelly could have written two distinct standalone novels. Dialogues are not strong and felt extremely flat. He maintained the pace of story by introducing different angles of investigation and characters, but there are no events to support his attempt. In chapter #31, I almost believed that there is nothing more to read because there are multiple shadow endings. We see how the suspense was built throughout the book and at the climax successfully evoked the grave serious message of battling with the darker side of the world.

To sum up, Connelly is undoubtedly skilled but The Drop failed to meet my expectations. The only point of recommendation would be that despite being the seventeenth book in a series, one can read it without wondering about any inexplicable flashback.

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