Monday, October 17, 2022

The Forgotten Palace and the betrayed prince by Shalini Ranjan (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!


27th Book of 2022


I remember reading Shalini Ranjan’s book named “The Imperfect Deception” just 3 months back. As I had liked how she had balanced the story and most of her thoughts synched up with mine in terms of issues like marriage and parenting, I didn’t take much time in ordering her new book on Kindle named “The Forgotten Palace and the betrayed prince” which released just 2 weeks ago on my birthday- 4th October. This 365-pages book has a tagline - “A time travel romantic fantasy”. Frankly speaking, I get very scared when I see a book mentioning its story based on fantasy-related elements because there have been instances when I could never relate with author’s imagination. Another factor – time-traveling as a concept can be very tough to understand hence, I was again skeptic about how easy it would be for me as a reader to go through this.


I must tell you – Shalini’s writing style made both these elements so easy for me that I could very easily read such a long book without getting confused. The treatment given to these complex structures of storytelling and concept tells you about the author’s vision while writing the book. I must also specially mention how beautiful her command over English language is. The way she forms her sentences – the word she uses to define her characters or their expressions – the size of paragraphs – the ease in the conversation between different characters – everything has been articulated very nicely. Both- author and editor should be credited for the same. I could not find typos in the book which is generally not the case with Kindle and self-published books.


The character of Priya is given a very proper description that you are able to understand her at every juncture of the story. Her decisions, confusions, stands are not an easy-going thing but the way her character is established makes you empathize with her and you stand besides her throughout the story. Her relationship with her granny, friend Anjali and Simran, Arnav, Satya, Devyani, Mansukh, Siddeshwar, in-laws are dealt very significantly where you are able to comprehend her connection with them well enough. Even though the story is written in a form where you might feel it’s a love triangle which involves Priya, Arnav and Satya but the time-traveling concept makes the reading experience very fresh and distinct.


In the 1st half, there’s a confusion as to how the character of Priya time-traveling between two different eras – in 15th Century and 21st century but it eventually becomes crystal clear with the way author starts unveiling things. I started enjoying the unsaid explanations as I wanted to understand if this is really happening or author will give it a psychological disorder turn at the end of the book. Also, the time-traveling aspect makes the love story interesting as you know that the protagonist will have to choose one of the two eras for her future and which one would she go with. And in case she chooses both – how is it going to become a possibility. Author has kept such surprising factors wrapped very strategically and its only in the final pages where everything gets confirmed to you.


There are many beautiful philosophical statements included along with the story that will stay with you as a perspective. There are couple of intimate scenes in the book and I must say that they are very sensuously written. You will crave for someone while reading it. Every scene is handled so differently than the other tells about the author’s writing prowess about how she can give the same thing different treatment every time. Shalini also ensures that she covers the new-age romance and its issues very effectively. How exes come back in life and make your current relationship problematic. How it becomes bit difficult for the girl to adjust after marriage with in-laws and new rules and regulations. How the expectations in relationship change after marriage. How loyalty and infidelity are another issue which raises trust issues after which marriage never remains to be the same. How having friends is so important at every step of your life as you need someone in whom you can confide. There are many such guiding factors in the story that will make you feel as if you are also getting to learn about life along with it.


The whole 15th century aspect is nicely dealt with – showing a very rich family who are living in palace with all the luxuries lying around them. The whole family politics and issue are structured well. The way Priya gets accommodated in their story while time-traveling and the way the character from the current life is connected with this family is very nicely scripted. I just felt problems with the name of the characters. Most of them start with D and it becomes tough to remember who is who in case you are not reading the book in one or two sittings. I wish if author could have given unique names to make it easy to remember.


Overall, this book is a very fresh read and I haven’t read anything like this before. I have become fan of Shalini Ranjan’s writing after this and I must say, she is someone who needs lot of attention and appreciation for her work. Read synopsis of every book written by her and not a single story has an easy-going plot. There’s some out-of-the-world element in every book. I give this particular book 4.5 stars out of 5. Yes- because of great story – and – the way author kept the book a perfect page-turner without a single boring chapter even when the book is 350+ pages. Recommended!






Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Krishna Series - The Beginning by Kapil Dabur (Book Review: 3*/5) !!!


26th Book of 2022


There comes a phase when suddenly I start reading books from a specific genre back-to-back co-incidentally. And mostly, this happens with the mythology/religious genre. I read Desai’s Mayabharata, Amish’s War of Lanka and now I completed Kapil Dabur’s “Krishna Series – The Beginning”. Even the next few books I am about to pick up are related to either Ramayan or Mahabharat. Anyway, let’s talk about Kapil’s version of Krishna story – the 278 pages book published by White Falcon publications. To start with, the cover page of the book is very serene and almost poetic displaying the image of Lord Krishna in his blue body playing flute with his closed eyes – The reason I picked it for reading.


This book, in particular, speaks about the life story of Kansa and how he turned from being a normal boy to a villainous character briefly. Yes, it’s less about Krishna and more about the evolution of Kansa as a big villain. Author has majorly tried to build a whole set-up to make us understand what kind of great figures Krishna fought in his childhood in unawareness and what kind of devilish-natured people like Kansa he would be fighting in the further parts of this series. There’s involvement of many other characters in the book from different regions of India who are all either ally or enemy with each other. How the message travels between all of them regarding mysterious things happening is nicely conveyed through the story.


The book starts slowly in quite a confused manner where it seems author found it difficult in order to how to begin telling this great epic story. He eventually finds the rhythm just before the 1st half of the book where he is able to develop few characters properly such as of Kansa, Vishwamitra, Sulochana, Putna etc. The book takes a good leap in terms of quality when the story of Kansa-Rati begins. I don’t know if it’s as per the epic or author’s creativity but I wasn’t aware of any such tale. Hence, it came out as a surprise and author’s portrayal of both of them meeting for the 1st time, then converting into acquaintance and finally finding romance between them is innocent and beautifully imaginable as a reader. All the other characters developed around them are treated well in this whole section.


The story goes into a flashback mode in between where Putna’s tale is been narrated as to how she turned into an ugly-looking person whereas once, she used to be one of the beautiful girls around the kingdom. Reading that story and also how, it impacted the life of Rati was chilling. Vashisht and Vishwamitra’s enmity and competition is also been highlighted every now and then – in the same manner as you can find in Amish’s Ram Chandra series. It’s nice to read the camaraderie and strong personalities that they were for their respective people. The Law of Karmic cycle is given a great prominence in the story and you’ll like its references and examples whenever provided. Similarly, the pre-climax and climax of the book are something where you’ll be excited as a reader because you know something big is about to happen and I liked how author ended the 1st part at the right place which gives you the feeling of fulfillment as well as excitement to read what would happen next.


Talking about author’s writing, I must say it’s written in very basic language hence the book can be gifted even to the children of 10 years and above. They’ll be able to understand the story easily. Rewriting an epic consisting of multiple characters and storyline is not an easy task at all. At some places, Kapil does a great job but otherwise, keeps on failing here and there. Like, the book is about Krishna, but he’s one of the least mentioned characters in the book. Even in the scenes where he is doing powerful stuffs, the scenes are not being narrated properly but completed within a page or two. Even his growing-up part has many stories which author has excluded and showed him grow from an infant to a boy so quickly that you feel disappointed as you want to read about him when you pick a book based upon him.


Talking about the drawbacks, I would say that the typos and grammatical mistakes in the book pisses off as they are repeated in almost every 5 pages. As I said above, Krishna’s development is not being portrayed descriptively which had a lot of scope to take this to a next level altogether. Similarly, the characterizations of few characters are left for the readers to comprehend. The start of the book is quite slow and scattered – not in an appropriate flow to hold your attention. The story of Krishna and the whole development pre-birth and post-birth is written on a very surface level without digging into the intricacies which could have made avid mythological readers like me find something new in the story.


Overall, I rate this book 3 stars out of 5 – and this is recommended strictly for beginners in this genre.






Sunday, October 9, 2022

War of Lanka by Amish Tripathi (Book Review: 4*/5) !!!


25th Book of 2022


Binge-watching subsequent seasons of your favorite web-series is easy as you can fast-forward the unwanted scenes and complete it within a day. But it is very difficult to finish reading a book which is part of a series as you can’t skip the sentences and have to read everything with utmost concentration and devotion. And it becomes further tough when the book is of almost 475 pages. Yes, I am talking about the latest release of Amish Tripathi’s book named “War of Lanka” which is the 4th book in the Ram Chandra series. For this book, Amish has made his readers wait for more than 3 years hence there has been high expectations from it. I have been lucky enough to be present at the launch of this book and own an author-signed copy of it. The excitement has been such that I completed reading it within 2 days as I couldn’t stop myself from knowing how the things will unfold further in the story.


As we know Amish had experimented with the hyperlink concept with the first 3 books where each of them told stories of Ram, Sita and Raavan respectively from their birth till the kidnap of Sita by Raavan. The story finally merges with this book and takes it ahead from there. Amish has utilized the power of creative liberty completely as he has almost rewritten the whole Ramayan in his own version. It was evident in the 1st 3 books and this one just makes you smile at incidents where you expect things to unfold the way you have read/seen them but Amish throws a googly and you are surprised with a completely new take upon the same. I would like to mention few of them: For e.g. Hanuman lifting the mountain for Sanjivani angle has been transformed – the conversation between Sita and Raavan are friendly in Ashok Vatika – Ram Setu being referred as Nala Setu – Vali’s death – Sita’s birth – Ram’s brothers’ involvement in the war, Ram-Sabri meeting etc.


Amish has used a very commanding and friendly language to narrate the story as you’ll not have to run for the dictionary – though he ensures you still learn few new words without much trouble. Author has purposely created small sentences so that it becomes easier for readers to navigate while reading - I like how Amish doesn’t care a bit about what Grammar Nazis would say on the way he writes sentences without a proper form and uses punctuation marks as per his convenience. From his writings, it is evident that he cares for reader’s ease rather than impressing the elites. His descriptions are so powerful that he makes you visualize the whole personas and scenes and find yourself in the same era. You’ll even feel that you are the character who is being discussed because of the way Amish provides details – let them be as small or miniscule as possible. It’s almost as if you are blind and someone is narrating the whole movie to you without missing a single second of it.


I am glad that Amish has shared the whole list of characters in the beginning which had initially scared me regarding how many times will I have to refer to this page but I must tell you – I didn’t have to do it even once. I am equally impressed with the execution as even if you haven’t read the 1st 3 books, you will still not have to worry much because author, very intelligently, tells all the important details briefly before proceeding ahead with a certain important character/scene. The use of adjectives and adverbs did mesmerize me- Tripathi uses it wonderfully in defining the characters, actions, sequences, locations, monuments, expressions and everything under the sky. One must read this book to learn how to use adjectives/adverbs in our writings/conversations.


As we have often heard that our epics are not only about the story but it teaches us many aspects – author ensures that even his version does justice to it. There are good amount of geographical references which will make you feel as if you are traveling to all these places yourself. Even the way geo-political angle is covered helps you understand the challenges of people living there plus how it’s affecting the current situation of the characters. He doesn’t even shy away from quoting references from other cultures and you’ll find important insights/terms discussed from other epics and religious references too. Unlike Mahabharata, Ramayan has always been more about preparation of the war than the war itself and while narrating the same, there are multiple scientific inclusions made which gives us an insight how things weren’t as easy as it sounds. Amish takes enough time to explain how the bridge between Southern India and Lanka was built using science rather than just throwing the stones which starts floating right away.


Amish’s magic is using the philosophical aspect to speak about his belief on certain topics which is either everyone’s interest or enough relevant with our contemporary times. Particularly in this book it mostly happens when legendary characters are talking among themselves such as Sita-Raavan, Raavan-Indrajit, Raavan-Kumbhakarna, Vishwamitra-Vashishtha or there’s some flashback being discussed which doesn’t have anything to do with the current timeline but it’s like a good break for the readers to read some philosophy and then get back to the War zone. Haha! Author uses references of surgical strike, corona pandemic, vaccinations and its distribution to the needy outsiders, elitism, nepotism, Sabrimala etc. which helps you relate better.


Now talking about the drawbacks- I would start with the length of the book which Amish is gradually increasing with each book. Raavan was of around 375+ pages whereas this one is 100 more pages. Frankly, War of Lanka could have very easily been summed up within 350 pages if author had thought of letting go of few sentences used for over-describing situations or scientific concepts or war strategies. There are few sections which are exhaustive and eventually become boring such as building of Setu, entry into Onguiaahra, setup of Army etc.


The main heroes of Ramayan are Ram and Sita, obviously, but unfortunately, you will be surprised to know that there’s very less of both- Ram and Sita in this book. It’s more about the 3 brothers of Ram, Kumbhakarna, Indrajit, Mareech etc. Even Hanuman doesn’t have a great role the way it’s in the Valmini Ramayan. This was quite shocking for me as I believed Amish would portray Ram similar to how he did it with Shiva in the Shiva Trilogy and make us feel about the Larger-than-life presence of him on the planet. But nothing sort of that happens. Also eliminating few great characters or reducing their role gives a sense of incompleteness such as Jamvant, Sugreev, Angad etc. When an author tweaks an epic story like Ramayan, and when he is as popular as Amish Tripathi, we expect the story to be at least 75% as exceptional as the original but it’s not the case here. Even Raavan’s character has been underplayed where unlike the Valmiki’s Ramayan, he is aware that he’ll die right from the 1st day and he’s being extra-sweet with everyone. It is just not relatable at all.


Overall, I will still rate Raavan as the best book in the Ram Chandra series but saying that, the way story has been left incomplete in this book post the war of Ramayan, there’s an excitement to know what will Amish bring in the next and the last book of this series. My gut feeling says that it is going to be the best book in this series and also, maybe, Amish’s best work till date. Let’s wait and watch. I give this book 4 stars out of 5 – not great but not average either.






Thursday, October 6, 2022

Mayabharata by Meghnad Desai (Book Review: 2*/5) !!!


24th Book of 2022

Well, any name of Lord Vishnu or his avatars make me curious and that’s the reason why I have most of the books related to this subject with me. In case I don’t have any, I am on Youtube searching for the videos related to the almighty. This love for the Lord made me pick up Meghnad Desai’s latest book called “Mayabharata” the tagline of which says “The Untold Story behind the Death of Lord Krishna”. The book is published by Rupa Publications in around 145 pages hence it’s a good short mythological read. Every one of us is aware about the story behind Lord Krishna’s final moment when he was resting under a tree and a hunter named Jara unintentionally strikes a bow in his toe which leads to his death. I have read many interpretations of this where few also say that Bali was reborn as Jara to complete the cycle as Lord Rama killed him so the karma had to be balanced.


Talking about the concept shared in this book by Meghnad, the whole interpretation is completely distinct from whatever I have read till now. This made me turn the book after completing it and read the back cover which said “the book is the deployment of the author’s imaginative and creative powers” which relieved me as I must say that the whole thing doesn’t sound convincing at all. There’s always a question as to how can such sub-standard conversations and incidents happen after the epic Mahabharata – the tale which has so many nuances that every time you think it’s done, there’s a new layer which raises many new questions and provides you many more insights about life and relationships.


Author’s writing style is definitely very easy and beginner-friendly hence you won’t find difficulty in reading this mythological book written with creative liberty. The chapters are also divided interestingly based on characters initially and later deep dives into the respective sub-plots which takes us to the final climax. The book starts with several characters but the one chapter which gave the story a push was the one about Ashwatthama. How he thinks of every pandav as a liar and cheater makes you look at all the five brothers along with Lord Krishna through a very different lens.


One of the highlight and main element of the book is conversation between an outsider called Maya and Lord Krishna. The character of Maya is the reason behind the title of the book hence you can comprehend the importance of him in the story. The way Maya questions Lord Krishna and makes him accept that he may have been wrong in the way he dealt with the whole war scenario and the kind of strategies he implemented to make Pandav survive surprises you as a reader as we have never heard Lord Krishna not being able to win a conversation. Though this is an interesting read and a unique version but the whole thing sounds very fictitious because we know how Lord Krishna tackles any conversation or situation and wins it with his tactics.


The sexual tension between Draupadi and her husbands is spoken enough. Similarly, Yudhisthira sleeping with all the widow women in order to ensure that the clan doesn’t vanish completely is given a good emphasis upon. On the same note, Lord Krishna’s love-making and intimate moments with his wives and gopis are mentioned in many chapters repeatedly. Frankly speaking, I have never heard or read about Lord Krishna in such a manner and the way author has narrated these segments, it sounds disrespectful and demeaning. I just felt that author doesn’t have any belief in Mahabharat and the whole thing is written just to gain some fame by writing on this topic as nation is interested in Hinduism and its tales these days. This is the 1st book I have read where Lord Krishna looks like the weakest characters of all.


Overall, I would say that after a long time, a book has been quite disappointing to me; and particularly, from the mythology genre. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.






Sunday, October 2, 2022

LION - Most Wanted by Douglas Misquita (Book Review: 4*/5) !!!


23rd Book of 2022!


When I return back to reading after a long gap, I generally prefer either light-reads or a terrific thriller which can keep me interested and ensure I complete another book within few hours. This made me pick up the latest book released by Douglas Misquita named “Lion Most Wanted” which is the 2nd book in “The Escape Series”. I remember reading another series by Misquita based on a protagonist named Luc Fortesque and I was mind blown with the capacity Douglas has to create a world which he owns like a powerhouse. Lion Most Wanted is another book which will be remembered as one of his best works even if he writes 20 books after this.


The story is about Aslan “The Lion” Terzi who has escaped the prison and now, 3-4 different groups are behind him. He has to stay 10 steps ahead from them to survive and be the best in the game. This is how the thriller aspect is carved from this simple plot. You just keep on turning page to know what would happen next. I like how author manages to give appropriate attention to all the characters and groups involved in the story because it’s really difficult to manage. As a reader, you won’t feel that you are being made to run here and there without giving proper detailing of the scene you are reading.


The book carries the list of all the characters in the beginning which is a great implementation that I have been complaining from authors who write story comprising of more than 5 important characters. This really helped to navigate through the book as there are chances that we get confused with the names and their relation with the other characters. I am glad Douglas gave immense importance to this. The book is of around 212 pages in spite of having multiple characters and layers to the story which is evidence of how fast-paced and crisp writing it must be. There is not a single weak moment in the book where you’ll find the scene not adding onto the story.


The research of the author can be sensed with all the insights he gives about the countries and their status quo. It is not that author has just added few locations to make the story sound complex but if you have been aware about the geo-political scenario, you will be able to relate with the characters used to define the aura of the place. In the end, author also accepts the same that few of his characters and set-up are influenced by some real news happening in the world.


The characters are also developed well. Even though I haven’t read the 1st book in the series, I didn’t feel that I am missing out something. I was able to understand the psyche of the characters which even helped me in predicting few twists. Haha! I must also agree that the prediction only got half-right almost all the times as Douglas doesn’t stop putting his creative forces to give story the unexpected turn at the juncture when you least expect it.


Overall, this is a short thriller with lots of layers, characters and flavors to it. It might be difficult for someone new in reading to go with the flow but the bibliophiles are going to like it. I give the book 4 stars out of 5.






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