Book Review: Europa

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Book: Europa

Author: Hywel Richard Pinto

Genre: Science Fiction

Publishers: Story Mirror

The closest I have come to read science and fiction together are books by the ‘Robin Cook’ who mixed medicine and thriller for his stories. And I loved his stories. Though in past few years haven’t read him.

I grew up watching television series ‘Star Trek’ with Captain Kirk and Mr Spock. It used to be a much awaited series every week with the crew of the space ship tele-porting from one place to other, fighting aliens and traveling non-stop in space.

It is with these kind of influences playing on my mind, that I started reading the book ‘Europa’ by Hywel Richard Pinto.

The book is very ambitious in its space travel story. Though the unmanned spacecrafts have flown past planets Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune but as yet no man has traveled and walked on surface on these planets.  The story of Europa however sees a crew of astronauts and biologists travel to Europa, the moon of planet Jupiter, in search of earlier mission survivors and collect samples from the surface.

The time that the space ship Europa takes to travel is over one year when most of the crew sleeps in life-sustaining pods. But two of the crew who have been planted by the crooks to do nefarious activities wake up earlier than others to carry out the plan. However surprisingly the captain and his first officer wake up too. Mystery shrouds the strange waking up cycle till the time other crew members wake up six months later. And then the discovery of a crew member’s death creates trouble.

When the crew lands on the moon of Jupiter, they come face to face with not only the previous mission’s survivors but also strange hypnotizing creatures who all have survived in caves of that moon which is surprisingly filled with pure oxygen and has a large water body.

Through various twists and turns the mission is accomplished and the crew returns to earth where the captain of the Europa mission has to answer a lot of questions about deaths of crew members during mission. The crooks meanwhile out of greed become each other’s doom and all ends well.

The book is high on imagination and sees continuous action without losing its grasp on story. The investigative court however seems to have not been given much thought and it ends abruptly. The part of story dedicated to assassins though written well but doesn’t really concern the mission. It is parallel and mentions the mission very marginally.The Indian connection of the assassin and his master was not really required.

The book also has some grammatical errors. Another big mistake on part of publisher may be is that pages 7,8,9,10 and page 66 are repeat pages. The problem this creates is that if you are involved in reading the story and suddenly similar text starts appearing, it breaks not only the rhythm but also confuses the reader for few seconds.

But even with such silly mistakes, the story is a good science fiction with thrill and suspense thrown in. Not a bad read.

Indeed a courageous and good effort by the author.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Book Review: Open Eyed Meditations

Book: Open-Eyed Meditations

Author: Shubha Vilas

Genre: Self-Help

Publisher: Finger Print Publication

open-eyed-meditations-blogaddaThe Epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, besides being great stories are treasure trove of ancient wisdom. The short stories within these epics can become important life lesson…we just need to look, to understand.

It becomes easier to learn and comprehend this wisdom if someone guides in the right direction.

The book ‘Open Eyed Meditations’ is an attempt to help understand and answer the puzzle of day-to-day life.

I have read the earlier book ‘Ramayana…….’ by Shubha Vilas and though I was not much impressed by it, I still opted to read this new book mostly because I got curious.

And, I find this one better than the previous one. “Open Eyed Meditations” has small nuggets of wisdom derived from the stories of the epics and applied in today’s world.

Take for example the chapter ‘Magic Carpet for Relationships’ where author has given the perfect example of Krishna’s love for Arjun. Krishna addressed Arjun by various names that were his qualities. By appreciating all his qualities Krishna had a lovable bond…a everlasting relationship with Arjun. Shubha Vilas has summed it well “The 5Cs of appreciation are continuous, constant, costructive, contemplative and conscious…it then become contagious and comes back to you”

Another chapter on whether love is defined in kisses and gifts, he gives the examples of deep love of Sita who sacrificed the worldly comforts to go with Rama and of Urmila’s love who sacrificed her right to be with her husband so that he may fulfill his duty. For a loving relationship what is required is an unconditional love and not superficial things like gifts etc.

An example which I found most interesting was in the chapter dealing with the choice of quantity or quality. In today’s social media trending world, I have often wondered about those bloggers who claim to have thousands of followers and at times I have felt helpless when I compared myself to them. The example of Arjun who chose Krishna instead of Yadav army for Mahabharat battle and Duryodhana chose the entire Krishna’s army clearly shows who chose quality and who chose the quantity. The Pandavas were victorious despite having smaller army because they had the quality…the brains and blessings of Krishna.

This example made me realize that number of followers on social media might not always mean that my work is of lesser or better quality! This story and the wisdom associated came to my notice at the time when I was feeling little dejected and it made sense to me….I am less worried now…I guess I knew this truth somewhere at the back of my logical thinking…it just needed to be prodded to come out.

There are 64 such chapters reflecting on life lessons that include little insights on love, relationships, leadership, courage, success, emotions, character and personality development. This book has tried to bring forth ancient wisdom for the modern lives in a very easy and simple way.

It is a good read and reader may get an unbiased third person viewpoint on certain issues that my ring true to them.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

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Book Review: Finding Juliet

Finding Juliet

Author: Toffee

Publication: Srishti Publishers

Genre: Fiction

finding-julietSo a new book came at my doorstep… Finding Juliet, sent by Writer’s Melon.

 This is a story of a Arjun who seems to get attracted to lot many girls. He gets close and emotionally attached to three girls in succession but eventually loses his ground with each of them.

Dejected, heartbroken and confused he leaves his job and changes cities where his childhood friend Anjali becomes his shoulder to cry on. An office colleague seems to enlighten Arjun of ‘what women want’ and gradually Arjun turns himself into an irresistible flirty hunk.

Eventually, Arjun realizes the futility of one-night-stands and ‘no strings attached’ sexual escapades. It dawns on him that his true love was his ever supporting childhood friend that he had been searching for a long time. All ends well with Arjun finally Finding his Juliet.

When I started reading through, I kind of guessed who the Juliet would be and there was no surprise. The story though well written seems to be a concoction of some of the new age Hindi movies. At one time the main protagonist seems to be floundering with every thing and every girl and then every thing seems to fall in place with him romping around with every female in his vicinity…from young just in college girl to married woman are just blown away by his charm and he lands a lasting gig in the film industry writing lyrics!

Also the author keeps mentioning about the character being an engineer…it looked forced…as if he needs the world to believe of his geeky intellect! His romp  with every girl he meets becomes little boring because every time there is a mention of a new girl…you know what is coming!

Thankfully author decides to wake up and do away with his character’s Casanova lifestyle or else I would have stopped reading more of his amorous activities….too much of something becomes boring isn’t it? Or then may be I am old school.

The story is fast paced and holds attention. In fact if someone wants to make yet another new age movie where everyone is cool about casual sex and there is no guilt baggage…this story fits in.

The story is very today. I may have outgrown such love stories…I now kind of incline towards more mature real meaningful relationship stories but I am sure people would love to read this book and imagine themselves in ‘Arjun’s’ shoes.

Go ahead and read for yourself…

‘I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.’

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The Sentimental Terrorist

Book: The Sentimental Terrorist

Author: Rajesh Talwar

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Kindle Version

The Sentimental TerroristI have time and again made it obvious that I do not like to read kindle version of books…it somehow never satisfies me to read a digital book as much a paperback does!

Had I known before applying as book reviewer about the book being Kindle version, I probably would have refused. But once selected for review, I did not have a heart to back away even though The Tales Pensieve people gave me an option.

The name of the book is a hint enough and along with the image of a turbaned man overlooking the barren rocky terrain on the cover, the reader can very well understand who the protagonist might be but the term ‘sentimental’ is intriguing.

From what the media flashes on television screens and newspapers, terrorists seem to be a hardened cruel lot. Atrocities of Taliban make the world’s blood boil. So how can a terrorist be sentimental?

A fictional story, it is about a young Afghan, Mohsin, who despite good education and a logical head on his strong shoulders becomes associated with Taliban after giving up a decent job with French agency working for health issues of Afghani women and undergoes extensive training for launching an attack on ‘infidels’ or Americans who have again and again bombed the region many a times killing innocent locals instead of Taliban terrorists. In one such accidental bombing Mohsin’s family is wiped out.

The love of his life, to escape a monster of a step-father marries a European and elopes to France. With his world crumbling all around him, Mohsin has no desire left.

Mohsin’s aversion to activities and thought process of Taliban is quickly replaced by a hatred towards the person responsible for such mindless slaughter of locals indulging in wedding ceremony. His grief and desire for revenge opens gates for Taliban influence on his disturbed emotional state.

While he does extract a revenge but his sentiments prevent him from killing innocent people trapped in crossfire.

The author has managed to give a glimpse of the general state of affairs in the terror ravaged country where the ‘pathan pride’ is dictated by a system of an eye for an eye kind of justice, where preaching of Islam has been twisted, where women are treated as property and punished over a whim of men, where simple pleasures of watching television, listening to music that are often taken for granted by us, are punishable offences by Taliban, where people fight everyday to survive and where witnessing the next sunrise is always debatable.

Author, Rajesh Talwar, through his story has pointed out the fact that though there might be thousands in Afghanistan who would any day want to get rid of Taliban extremists but the presence of western forces has ruined the ethnicity and harmed the locals, which has turned more locals against the western armed forces. The collateral damage, in a bid to contain Taliban, has been unimaginable.

This is a story of finding love amidst destruction, of sacrificed love to escape from Taliban, of fight for survival, of ramifications of misused power and of a place which could have been a beautiful, highly cultural and ethnic province.

As a kid I had read a story of ‘Kabuliwala’ who sold dry fruits. For long time I imagined Afghans as tall Pathans with fair skin and robust health due to all those delicious dry fruits. That the Mughal Empire had its roots in Afghanistan also played a role in my imagination.

But the book paints a grim picture and makes me feel grateful to have been born in a much tolerant and free country.

The story is written well but I would have preferred a longer book with the protagonist’s turmoil of killing innocent people more defined…his conflicting sentiments described in more detail…. his decisions to join Taliban against his better judgement and logical thoughts. I feel the story falls short in bringing out the pain of a young man.

However it is good to be read at least once and keeps the reader engaged till the last page.

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.

Book Review: Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right

Book: Rightfully Wrong, Wrongfully Right

Author: Varsha Dixit

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Rupa Publications

varsha-book_1Opening with a morbid thought of death, the first few lines of story did nothing to encourage me to read the rest of the book. However the red cover of the book with little hearts, wine bottles, cupcakes and a young couple suggested that the story might be anything but morbid!

The blurb and the title did indicate that the story was about how opposites attract but I still did not like the ring of the title…

But read I did and after a slow start, I was hooked. The characters it seems were introduced in previous two bestsellers by the author Varsha Dixit. Since I have not read her earlier two books, it may be the reason I did not take to the characters and dive into the story immediately.

Gayatri, a rich well brought up girl has a domineering father who considers it his right to decide anything and everything for Gayatri. Caught between her wish to break free on her own and her father’s dos and dont’s, she often blunders in her decisions. Viraj, a young genius scientist works for Gayatri’s childhood friend who is more like a doting brother to her. Viraj, having grown up with an abusive father despises violence against women and any kind of weakness displayed by anyone.

From the moment Gayatri and Viraj set eyes on each other, an electric chemistry sizzles between them despite their much dislike for each other. Certain turn of events forces Viraj to agree for Gayatri’s employment in his laboratory and the two temperamentally opposite people hence onwards often come face to face. In their own ways, each helps the other overcome the personal demons. The attraction is magnetic and intense which evolves gradually into a torrid love story. Eventually all is well that ends well.

However I am not convinced by Gayatri’s characterisation. On one hand she is shown adept at Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defence technique and on other hand she doesn’t think twice before conspiring first against her ex-fiancé and then trying to hook up a lab technician with the scientist. With a domineering father who dictated all her moves, how come she even managed to learn the defence technique in the first place?

Usually when someone involves themselves in martial art disciplines, their mental strength is equally enhanced along with physical defence abilities. What I mean to say is, such defence techniques need a balanced approach to enable a person to excel in them. Whereas Gayatri is nothing like that…she is just a simply rich girl who loves all good things and is weak as far as taking decisions is concerned.

Krav Maga has caught everyone’s fancy and many stories by every alternate author that I have recently read have at least one character who is ace in this defence technique. Gayatri and her knowledge of Krav maga seems just that…a fad!

Viraj also could have been anybody, his being scientist has hardly anything to do with the story.

But then this is my outlook and yet I loved reading it. After all everyone loves to read about a girl who can fight eve teasers yet is  delicate, beautiful, mushy and romantic. And Gayatri is all that and Viraj is her knight who tries to fool people around him by putting on a devil-may-care attitude but in reality he is that handsome hunk who is slightly  possessive in love and yet very caring.

All in all the book is perfect for curling up with a cup of coffee in a cozy spot to fantasize about a delicious love. This story is the ‘Mills and Boon’ in Indian setting.

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Book review: Into the Abyss

Book: Into the Abyss

Author: Ayush Ansal

Genre: Crime Fiction

Publishers: Rupa Publication

Into the AbyssI was introduced to a world of thrillers quite early since my father had a collection of Jason Bourne Series, Godfather by Mario Puzo and Robert Ludlum books. In school as a teenager I was allowed to read Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock but at home I had access to my father’s collection.  Later in college I read Sidney Sheldon, Tom Clancy, Robin Cook and many more….It has been a few years now that I have laid hands on books by foreign authors of crime fiction and thrillers.

On receiving the book Into The Abyssby an Indian author Ayush Ansal,  I was quite intrigued to read a blurb with characters and story set in London and Scotland Yard detectives appearing now and then.

The story is about a kid Sam Winterfield who witnesses goons kill his parents. He has his heart set on revenge. Growing up he comes across people who play a role in moulding him into a cold young lad. His innocence is lost forever when he kills two other goons without flinching.

Story builds up on a failed embezzlement plan resulting in some gruesome murders. And what I liked was that there was no slackness in spinning the story…events follow and story goes on gradually. The mystery of killer unfolded in small doses and kept me hooked to the story till the very end. And the end was a bit of surprise for me.

The one thing that the author seems to have overlooked while writing the story is that the killer after killing parents of Sam Winterfield, a boy of ten, remarks “When time finally comes, I will be at the end of your road awaiting your vengeance”

But the boy never gets to take revenge himself. Somebody else kills the killer for some other reason. It was not emphasised to the killer that it was for Sam Winterfield’s revenge that he was being shot at.

I was expecting the boy to face the killer of his parents again instead of relying on a mobster to kill him.

Overall the story is gripping and I am ready to excuse the way revenge was taken. Author has made use of his stay in England very well with detailed descriptions of characters and backdrop of story.

A good engaging read for all.

Book Review: Kings and Queens

Book: Kings and Queens

Author: Subhadra Sen Gupta

Illustrator: Tapas Guha

Publisher: Rupa Publication

kings and queensI have grown up reading many many ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ books on kings and queens of India. In fact, my fascination towards history and the ease with which the stories made lasting memory is all due to those very books. The ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ books are much costlier now and a collector’s item.

Having lived for major part of my growing up years in northern India, the Akbar-Birbal stories were much popular.

The school books had stories of Mughal rulers, Ashoka, different dynasties that ruled Delhi and of temples of southern India.

This book by Subhadra Sen Gupta has stories of other four important rulers of India who find only a little mention in history books. The author has highlighted stories about Empress Nur Jehan, Razia Sultan and two kings, Chandragupt Maurya and Krishnadev Raya. I had not known much about King Krishnadev Raya except some stories about Tenali Raman, the court jester of the King. But this book helped me brush up my knowledge about Hampi and the king’s greatness.

Concise and to the point, this book is a wonderful read and may attract children with colourful illustrations. It is a commendable effort to highlight the achievements of important rulers of Indian history. Presented in a story form with relevant details this book would make for a great gift to kids to kindle a love for not only reading but also an inclination towards history and a curiosity to know more.

And not only kids but grown-ups might enjoy revisiting history through this book and illustrations. I for one enjoyed reading because it took me back to my childhood and the days of Amar Chitra Katha books. I often even copied and drew the characters and scenes from those books and with this book may be I will revive my artistic skills too.

A well compiled book with list of sources of reference for those readers who might want to go for detailed study of these stories.

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Book Review: As Boys Become Men

Book: As Boys Become Men

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Fiction

Author: Mukul Kumar

as-boys-become-men-original-imaefkrthnnhujfqJust because a couple of Bollywood movies with three friends became popular, it seems three is a magical number.

And just because Chetan Bhagat made his college life into a crowd pulling story, doesn’t mean everybody starts writing story of their  college days.

I too went to a college and it was one of the first few all girls architecture college. We had to struggle quite a lot to make people see us as serious students. This way I guess I am qualified to write my college life story as well.

In this book “As Boys Become Men“, the story revolves around three civil services aspirants and their trials and tribulations. The three boys hailing from Bihar come from modest backgrounds and each one carries the burden of expectations of their families. The boys struggle with biases towards students from Bihar, accommodation problems in the expensive capital city, finding love and no-strings attached relationships, coaching sessions, anxiety of results, successes and failures.

Now I don’t know much about preparing for a civil services exam. No doubt it must be a hard nut to crack….after all not everyone becomes an IAS officer. But after reading first few pages, I was not much inspired to read the book. I had to literally force myself to read the story, all because I had signed in for book reviewer’s programme.

The effort in describing a scene like ‘the trio is laughing and chatting’  or ‘the boys finish eating and switch off the movie’ throughout the story do not really make for an attractive reading.

The story telling is way too ordinary….not interesting enough. The reference of ‘Monalisa’ and ‘Soma’ again and again do not work at all. The struggle of a civil services aspirant does not ‘shine’ through the entire narrative at all.

When I received the book, someone asked me what my opinion was judging from the blurb. And I honestly replied that the blurb seems promising but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The blurb is better than the story inside. I have even skipped portions of book because it did not hold my attention.

I am quite disappointed by the story and the mediocre style of writing. I am dying to read a good book now where the language, the situation, the characterisation and plot all come together to make a good read.

Read if it works for you….

Book Review: I Made A Booboo

Book: I Made A Booboo

Genre: Non-fiction/Parenting

Author: Shivangi Sharma

Publication: Rupa Publications

bookWhen I opted to write review of three books by Rupa Publications, I wasn’t expecting a big bundle delivered at the doorstep with all three books at once. Now it was a matter of choice for me to read any one of them.

I chose to read Shivangi Sharma’s “I made a Booboo” first because the blurb promised to take me down the memory lane when my baby was born. The title of book was unusually funny and reminded me of the movie ‘Baby’s Day Out’.

I started reading the book enthusiastically because being a mother I kind of knew what to expect from the caricature on the book cover….and I could identify with the world turning all topsy-turvy with the arrival of the baby. As I read along a constant smile played on my lips…it seemed the author had peeped into my bedroom to spy before writing the account.

The pregnancy jitters and apprehensions in first few pages resonated with my condition and I guess most of the mothers will identify with the story too. Once our bundle of joy arrives in the world, it makes sure we learn patience with its own set of rules of sleeping and waking up. But may be because I followed my mother and grandmother’s advices to the word, my daughter adapted within two months of her birth, the schedule I set for her feeding, bathing and sleeping….the first two months however had been similar to the author’s experience with sleepless nights making me look more haggard instead of a happy woman.

Though I left my job only few months into my pregnancy and never looked back but I can relate to the guilt pangs of the author. It is because of that guilt that I let my baby have all my time exclusively for herself even ignoring time meant for husband and disregarding his needs.

Author has used humor well in describing the routine of a new mother and managed to not become a preachy-here-is-what-you-should-do self-help guide on bringing up a baby kind of book.

After few pages however the account of the author post-pregnancy though hilarious becomes monotonously predictable and I got bored halfway through the journal. Relating  a few episodes is fine but the book goes on and on about similar events and is repetitive. It should have been a shorter book to keep my kind of readers engaged.

Many new mothers will find themselves in the same shoes as the author and enjoy reading the account as if it was their own. Readers with grown up kids will also reminisce and laugh on the  similar events…

A light perk you up kind of read.

Book Review: Shakuntala, The Woman Wronged

Book: Shakuntala

Genre: Fiction/Mythology

Publisher: Rupa Publication

Author: Utkarsh Patel

Shakuntala_CoverI have been reading a lot of fiction based on mythological stories  these  days. A few days ago I finished reading about love of the most beautiful celestial nymph Menaka and sage Vishwamitra. Their love came to fruition with the birth of a beautiful daughter Shakuntala. And the love story of this fiery daughter with Dushyant, King of Hastinapur  is what that has kept me busy these last few days.

The author, Utkarsh Patel, has astutely observed the different moral yardsticks of our society which still remain unaltered:

“A man was seldom blamed for his sins and if at all he was, it was passed off as an oversight. But a woman was blamed, shamed and made to suffer for the misdemeanours of men around her for no fault of hers”

Because of such double standards, almost all stories revolving around Dushyant have depicted the king as an upright man of high morals who becomes a victim of some strange curse and forgets about his love and marriage. He was hardly ever shown as one pleasure-seeking wily king…

But here in this story, author has dared to call a spade a spade….King Dushyant engaged in a one night stand with the a virgin woman on false promises of marriage and that makes him one of those vain men who consider women an object to play with and discard at convenience. His morals and intentions are questionable and the story does not sugar-coat the character of the mighty, used-to-getting-his-way king.

The demure Shakuntala of Kalidas, the great poet of all times, who pines for her beloved and is dependent on fate for reminding the King of Hastinapur of his marriage and promises to her, is nowhere to be seen in this story. This Shakuntala, based on the original characterization by Sage Vyasa, does not wallow in pain of abandonment but takes matter in her hands and questions the society and its different rules for men and women. She is fierce, fights for the rights of her son and asserts her importance as a wife. She is independent woman who does not need the crutches of wealth and a label of queen to survive in the world.

I loved the book through and through not only because it is very well-knit and to the point but also because author has subtly raised certain issues that still need to be addressed and debated over; the difference of reactions meted out to men and women for craving physical gratifications, the unnecessary emphasis given to virginity of women, freedom of women to choose their partners…

I am quite impressed by Vyasa’s and Utkarsh Patel’s Shakuntala for being brave enough to stand up against an hypocritical society and silence it with her uninhibited logical reasoning. Such strong women who believe in equality of men and women are need of this nation and more so today because men have taken enough advantage of the love which a woman has to offer.

We need more such men too who respect and honour women; who believe that future of such a nation, that does not respect its women, where women shed tears and are treated like objects, is doomed.

The chapter ‘Time’ however seemed little out-of-place because it reminded me of the opening scene from the mega serial “Mahabharat” with voice booming out of the idiot box “Mai Samay hoon….” Story could have been taken forward by prose within the chapters instead of ‘Mr Time’ speaking up suddenly and then keeping quiet during rest of the story!

But this hardly anything to hold against because the book has a wonderful prose that is apt to be read even in modern context.

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