Book Review: The Blue Bar

What else could a story with a sleazy bar, the bar girls gyrating to loud vulgar music, some rich influential society honchos, some underworld hit-men, few dirty cops and a lone honest policeman trying to make a sense of it all, be other than a super thriller?

If the book happens to be written by Damyanti Biswas, who debuted with bloodcurdling story ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ in the world of crime fiction novels, then be assured that the thriller would be a story with a chilling murder or two with sudden twists and turns in the story.

Damyanti is an Indian author with numerous short stories to her credit and has been shortlisted for Bath Novel Awards. She is the co-editor of Forge Literary Magazine. Says Damyanti about her second novel, The Blue Bar, “The story idea developed from a prompt in a workshop, that required me to write about a character who was being watched. The image of a woman in blue sequined sari became the first few lines of the story.”

When dismembered female corpses began to appear at different locations pointing to mysterious disappearances of bar girls, inspector Arnav concludes that he needs to hunt down a serial killer before his next victim turns up slaughtered. But when another bar girl Tara, Arnav’s love interest from a decade ago, goes missing, the desperation to solve the case becomes personal. His investigations take him through secrets of rich and powerful. Arnav’s perceptions of friendship and loyalty are challenged along the way when he uncovers corruption in the ranks of his colleagues. As he finds more about piling dead bodies, he realizes there are bigger forces at play. While Arnav faces the dilemma of confronting friends and bosses, he needs to accept his own truth about his love and fears.

From shady dance bars to lavish bungalows of the rich, the story weaves its way through myriad emotions, brutal indifference, hate, unrequited love, revenge, abuse and lies. The twists in the story not only surprise but also hit hard.

As you read this book, it is apparent that a lot of research has gone into writing a engrossing story that brings alive the locales by describing the smells, the sights and the behaviors of characters. The story is set in Mumbai, a city where people migrate in search of dreams and aspirations.The grasping narration does justice in describing certain traits of Mumbai. It pulls you into the story making it feel all real, as if all the scenes are unfolding in front of you as you watch in horror.

A nail biting super paced well-written narration that leaves the reader with no time to think anything beyond reading the next page and then.  A great read for mystery readers.

Book Review: The Conquest Of East

Book: Conquest Of The East
Author: R. Durgadoss
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Rupa Publication
Conquest Of the East
Since I haven’t read the earlier book of this series, I don’t know how much this book connects with back story.

I became quite fascinated with history of Chola kings when I moved to Tamilnadu for a year. There was nothing much in school books while growing up.

While visiting the living Chola Temples around Thanjavur, I had the opportunity to visit Gangaikondacholapuram, a town and temple established by Rajendra Chola after his victorious campaign till River Ganga in north.

The book ‘Conquest of east’ is based on that very conquest. The story however has nice dose of fiction amalgamated with few facts of history.

The story features ‘Sagar’ a brave man who takes various rebirths to help in achieving the victory. I however have not related that part well with story. I would have liked to read more about Sagar  but may be that part has been dealt with in earlier books of the series.

In all, the story was good and kept me wanting to turn the page.  At some places story took the form of bulleted information which personally I did not like even if it was taking the story ahead because it broke the flow of the story and felt as if I was reading a document on historic findings instead of fiction story.

Read it… may be along with previous parts.


Book Review: Then The Door Bell Rang

Book: Then The Door Bell Rang

Author: Capri Jalota

Genre: Fiction

Publication: Inkstate Books

Another book that has been long overdue for review is “Then The Door Bell Rang”. Reading through the blurb, I was little worried about not making it through the entire book…well I am not exactly comfortable reading about suicides and self harm. At least that is what I assumed the story to be.

I was only partially right.  The story is of ‘Jane’ with Indian father and British mother. Jane’s mother leaves her in her father’s care while she is still young and the failed marriage of her parents subconsciously affects her.

When Jane does fall in love with Uday and marries him eventually, she is not ready to mingle with his side of the family assuming bad vibes…all this because a letter from her mother elaborates the experiences her mother had with her in-laws in India.

Suddenly Jane is swallowed by grief as Uday meets an untimely death. It is then while going through his stuff that Jane learns more about Uday. She realizes that the ways Uday used to woo her were not his after all but of his dear friend, Rahul. She comes to know real Uday through a journal that her husband kept hidden in his cupboard.

An attempt, to later find Rahul and inform him of his friend’s death leads Jane to India where she gets to know her in-laws and meets another couple who help her in her efforts to locate Rahul. An untoward incident causes the death of the man who had been helping Jane hunt for Rahul. A panicky Jane runs back to Dubai without as much a courtesy call to the bereaved widow and the two little girls who had grown fond of Jane.

Years later, Jane does find Rahul with two young girls under his care. That the two girls belong to the man who helped her in Mumbai, makes her reach out to them. Events lead to Jane feeling lonely and suicidal.

As she finally contemplates to end her life, the door bell rings bringing her back from the brink and her world is completed.

The story many a times becomes monotonous and bit stretchy. Though the events in Jane’s life do take the story forward but I would have preferred if Jane’s interactions with different people were little crisper and tighter. The story doe not dwell enough on bond between Rahul and Jane which seems so minimal almost non-existent and stretched over a long period of time.

The story also wears a gloom in most part of the book.

However Jane’s self doubts and battle within herself make her look real and not just another fictional character. Her growth as a person because of various events happening in her life has been depicted very well.

The story is well written with good command over language and makes for an okay read. The story does have a happy ending but I prefer a more lighter atmosphere.

Read and decide for yourself if the book is for you.

Book Review: The Girl Who Loved A Pirate

Book: The Girl Who Loved A Pirate

Author: Kulpreet Yadav

Genre: Fiction/Crime

Publication: Rumor Books India

An author signed book is a prized possession for book lovers. And when ‘The Girl Who Loved A Pirate’ arrived at my door step, I was happy to receive yet another book with a note from author.

I haven’t read the earlier book in this series which I am guessing introduced the reader with ‘Andy Karan’ the spy.

This story is about a ruthless pirate wanted by the Malaysian government. Andy Karan, an undercover spy has dual job as a journalist trying to unearth drug don in Goa and a secret mission for the Indian government with the help of the pirate.

In a series of events that take the reader from Goa and the rave parties to the high seas where drama unfolds as pirates and Filipino crime hardened sailors take on each other. The leader of pirates battles with an urge to go against the government mission for safety of his lady love. The Indian coast guards and Navy along with Andy Karan come into play for the sake of mission. All in all there is a lot of action going on from the word go of the story. The subtle love story of pirate leader ‘Ba-qat’ and Andy Karan’s escapades with drug lords of Goa run parallel in the story.

The story however begins with Kurukshetra and Karan in his dying moments. I was expecting a ‘Karan-esque’ end to the story, Mahabharata style. Or that the pirate and spy stumble upon a dark secret of being brothers….a la Karan Arjun style. But as there was nothing of that sort, I was confused as to why the prologue  was the way it was.

Also I felt that since the story was named ‘The Girl Who Loved A Pirate’, there was very less mention of ‘Dao-Ming’ the pirate’s lover. She is in background with Andy Karan’s drug investigations and pirate’s action taking the center stage. I would have liked to see the girl in more prominent role may be as a spy herself who falls for a pirate and that would have justified the title of the book too. May be like the lead character ‘Lisbeth Salander’ of Millennium series by Stieg Larsson like ‘The girl who played with fire’ and the first one ‘The girl with the dragon tattoo’.

The book is a nice read with author’s knowledge about ships and seas shining through. The story also keeps the reader engaged and guessing throughout with fast action thriller. I would like to read more from the author…


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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Book Review: Crème brûlée

Book: Crème brûlée

Genre: Fiction

Author: Ramona Sen

Publishers: Rupa Publication

Creme bruleeWith quite an interest in baking, I am not new to the exotic names of desserts and hence the name of the book “Crème brûlée” by Ramona Sen intrigued me enough to opt for reviewing the story.

One look at the cover and the blurb and I looked forward to read this concoction of subtly brewing love, an eccentric family and a ghostly presence.

The story is centered around two restaurateurs Aabir Mookherjee who runs ‘E&B’ and Kimaya Kapoor who runs ‘The Mad Hatter’. Aabir Mookherjee, an anglicized Bengali returns from Oxford to open his Eggs and Bacon café  which is more known for its chocolate mousse. The attractive Kimaya Kapoor opens her café and her desserts gain popularity. While Aabir plans to join hands with Kimaya for his restaurant’s dessert supply, he has to fend off quite a many prospective brides launched on him by his ever whining mother. Falling in love with the quirky proprietress of the Mad Hatter, his uncertainty and dilemma about the relationship are put to rest by his grandma who resides on the coconut tree as a ghost watching over the house and its residents.

I loved the portrayal of relationship between widowed Kimaya and her mother-in-law though it was just in few lines. A loving and understanding mother-in-law who has some life of her own is anybody’s dream. Even Aabir, who though doesn’t approve of certain behavior of his mother but still does not interfere in her way of running the household, is adorable.

The story is very well written. Most of the stories that I have read recently had quite poor use of English Language and more bent upon using ‘Hinglish’ which personally is not to my liking. But this one I enjoyed  reading simply because of the language first. But then you expect a Bengali to have good command over the language…

Engaging read from the word go, the story does not lose its tempo and lucidity. The sketches in between the story seem out-of-place however, because it is essentially a fiction love story and not a recipe book. But I would have loved to see a sketch for the surprise decor that Aabir plans for Kimaya’s Mad Hatter, à la Alice in Wonderland style!

All in all a good delectable read for all ages with a seasoning of slight humor and baked to perfection.

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Book review: A Broken Man

Book: A Broken Man

Author: Akash Verma

Publication: Srishti Publishers

A broken manPolitics and caste-ism are two issues where I usually go mute. One because I do not understand or rather try not to understand the way political parties function by throwing muck at each other, pulling each other down and causing furore over progressive ideas instead of uniting and making the nation a real gem in the world. And two because I am uncomfortable about the caste system still prevailing in the country.

On reading the blurb of this book sent by Writers Melon, I had a fair idea of how the story will shape up.

Set against a backdrop of caste differences, caste reservation policies and agitations, student politics and elections, A Broken Man is essentially a love story between Chhavi, a Brahmin girl and Krishna, a Dalit boy. Brought up in extreme poverty and discrimination by the upper castes in remote village of Bihar, the inner angst against his condition and towards the Brahmin community is fanned by the local student leaders. Provoked Krishna stands against Chhavi, a member of the student association which raises the issues of inconsistency in facilities for students. In a conspiracy, the student political group stages an accident to appear as an attempt of self-immolation by her. Krishna, being the eye-witness of the crime is shaken by the ugly face of the political group of students and saves Chhavi endangering his own life.

The heroic act of Krishna makes Chhavi fall for her savior. The foes turned friends become lovers soon after. The familial pressure however, forces their separation.

But love triumphs finally and the estranged lovers come together years later having fulfilled their family duties and promise to each other.

Though the story of a rich girl falling in love with a poor boy is an over-used formula which has been used exhaustively beyond its life in films and novels yet the angle of an upper caste girl getting involved with a lower caste  boy in Indian society seems like a new idea because in Hindi cinema the story usually steers clear of any mention of caste.

Cleverly, this story also does not ruffle any feathers by not painting either of the communities in too bad light and simply dwells on the love of two human beings who have been separated by circumstances. In an easy narrative the story glides smoothly from present into a flashback of college politics, family differences, separation, success story and back to present.

There isn’t any awkward gap or slackening of the pace in the narrative.

Having seen enough inter-caste marriages in my family, I am however not convinced of  a small issue….but that may be because I am being too practical or too critical of the story. For any person brought up in as much comforts as Chhavi has been portrayed, it is difficult to envision a life in as much poverty as Krishna has been brought up in, irrespective of any caste. But Chhavvi is unaffected….may be its is wishful thinking of author.

Overall a good and easy read….

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Book Review: The Tantric Curse

Book : The Tantric Curse

Author: Anupama Garg

Genre: Fiction

Publishers: Rupa Publication

Tantric CurseBlame it on television serials and movies, the word ‘Tantric’ invokes more often an image of a man with evil look in his eyes and  unkempt long white hair dressed in red toga performing black magic with bones of dead around him…

I remember many years ago travelling through Orchha, we stopped at a place opposite a temple complex which was unusually dark for a temple. My fellow traveller just hinted that it was frequented by ‘tantrics’ and not very safe place to be around.  We naturally did not stop for much longer at the spot.

When the team of the Tantric Curse contacted me for the review, I was at first sceptical as I hardly knew anything about ‘tantra vidya’. I thought the book would be like some religious handbook describing the guiding principles.

I was surprised however to read the blurb. The story is about an eight year old Rhea whose parents are killed in an unfortunate event and the little girl lands at the doorstep of a tantric’s house of worship in a state of trance. The tantric Satya, a learned man and devotee of Goddess Kamakhya takes the girl under his fold realising her intrinsic unusual faculties. The girl is blessed with a vision and can foretell events that might happen in future. The tantric’s own lineage is weighed down by a curse.

As Rhea grows up and is trained in principles of the ancient order of religion, it depends on her whether the curse would break or she too would succumb to the curse. Her journey to master the knowledge and discipline of ‘Tantra’ takes her through difficult times. Overcoming all challenges and hurdles she achieves success and masters the knowledge of Tantra.

The story keeps the reader intrigued as the mystery of what the curse is revealed much later. The subtle love story in the background adds a flavour to the story of learning and discipline. The story is sprinkled with information on Tantric knowledge and practices without forcing its beliefs on the reader. Most times tantric vidya because of lack of information is considered akin to black magic. As the ancient practice of transferring the knowledge to a chosen and deserving disciple is followed hence the awareness about this order of religion is surrounded by mystery and rumours.

The book tries to dispel common man’s fears associated with the practices of tantra with simple subtle suggestions. I found the book quite interesting though I am not sure whether real tantrics with genuine knowledge exist in today’s world. And if they do I would like to meet and understand the practice properly.

A good read with easy pace.

Book Review: It Was Always You

Book: It Was Always You

Author: Divita Aggarwal

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Rupa Publication

it was always youOf the three books that landed up at my door-step, this was one which caught my eye as it had some pretty good reviews including one by Shashi Tharoor. And I was much intrigued to find that the book is penned by a 17 year-old girl. It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t jealous a bit too…here I am, mother of a teenage daughter, with an urge to write the story that has been brewing in me for quite some time now but every time I put pen to paper my courage fails me and I begin to doubt whether my story is worth telling; and there is this brave young girl who has hardly spent time in an adult world but has gone ahead and published her school life story!

The story is a simple coming of age of a young girl Aisha, who while dealing with her daily routine in school finds her friendship with Kabir, the son of a corrupt MLA, finally blossoming into love over the years.

Either I am too old to relate to the events in book(there was never any MUN kind of thing in the convents I studied in) or I am too young(my daughter’s school has not informed me about any such event in her school as yet)…the description of events in school is very new to me. I am not sure what my reaction would be when my daughter reaches that stage….I won’t be gifting her any diamond ear studs like the protagonist’s mother, for school function….at least that is certain!!

 I found Aisha’s father’s advice, in the entire narrative, quite appropriate when he tells her, “Aisha, what is meant to be, will be. If two roads are supposed to meet, they always find a way, a direction.” This philosophy holds true in most aspects of life be it finding love or your calling.

For a teenager to pen a story long enough to be printed as a book, the effort is commendable. However, people of my age are not the target readers for the story. Kids from international schools would feel more aligned to the events mentioned in the book.

Overall a nice simple love story for teenagers.

Book Review: She

 Book: She

Genre: Fiction

Author: Santosh Avvanavar

SheI was travelling when this book was delivered at home. Accustomed to think novel as a at least 200 pages thick, I was surprised to see this booklet thinner than a travel guide!

The story it seemed was based in Kolkata, precisely where I had travelled to on an assignment. My expectations for the story had slightly gone down a bit due to the size of the book and I took my own sweet time to start reading the book.

Inspired by the song by RabindraNath Tagore ‘Ekla Cholo Re’ the story is about the society’s behaviour towards the LGBT community.

It is the story of Kusum who born a boy, prefers to indulge in activities more popular with girls. The father, though a doctor is ashamed of his child’s choice of activities and all hell breaks loose when father discovers the sexual inclinations of the child.

Kusum, falls in love with the son of another doctor, Dr Banerjee,  a friend of father. Both set of parents are horrified and Dr Banerjee shifts his son to some other city. The boys, all grown up meet again after few years and rekindle their relationship. However the societal norms and pressures make the lovers decide that  Kusum undergo a sex-change procedure and become a ‘proper’ female for the relationship to continue. But even after the successful sex-change procedure, the fear of ostracism from the society gets to the lover and he succumbs to his family demands of marrying another woman.

The author has tried to draw attention towards our behaviour as a whole towards the gay, lesbian and trans-genders which is far from empathy. We still consider gay relationships inappropriate and look down upon such alliances. The trans-genders are still not accepted in the normal society and the LGBT community is fighting for their place in the regular social thread of society, just like the protagonist of the story.

After reading the story, I realised that busy with my own everyday life and small problems, even I never gave thought to needs of people who are not defined as ‘he’ or ‘she’ in the society.

The story is an attempt to open up your eye but I wish there was more body to the story and the characters were developed in detail with the agony of the characters, the reaction of parents and the final decision of Kusum to go ahead in the world alone were defined properly. It seems like a hurriedly told story or more like an excerpt. The issue of acceptance of LGBT community is huge and the story does no justice in taking it up.

A great effort but a very short story. Decide for yourself….

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