[Book Review] Banquets on the Dead by Sharath Komarraju


Banquet on the Dead is fantastically thought and written thriller which will keep you engrossed in the story all the time. It was certainly a joy to read the book. Hamid Pasha, the lead detective, in the novel will give you the rusty feeling. The one that I had experienced earlier. I kept thinking about this experience that I had previously and was having while reading the novel when my mind left for the past days. If you know there was one detective series from Doordarshan days – Byomkesh Bakshi – the famous Bengali character created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyaya. Those were the days! Coming back to Banquet on the Dead now, this rusty feeling made the story more enjoyable. The characters were carefully sketched which though “bear no resemblance to any person living or dead” but still you will be able to relate to all of them. The characters actually exist in the real world.

Plot is fantastic and shows the confidence shown by Sharath Komarraju in his writing. Here I would like to mention that this is his second novel (I have not read the first one though). Till the end you keep guessing who can be the killer and until and unless Hamid Pasha discloses it at the end, there is no way that you can guess the correct answer (Yes! I know you can by skimming through the pages from the back. But isn’t it cheating?).

There were places where I felt that the book could have been better proof-read but like Ashwin Sanghi’s The Krishna Key, these can be ignored. :)

I have just one last thing to say: “Grab the book and keep guessing.”

My rating: 4/5.

P.S.: I received this book from the author/publisher in return of a review.

 

[Book Review] Oracle Certified Associate, Java Se 7 Programmer Study Guide by Richard M. Reese


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Read the review on my Technical Blog, TechJaunt by clicking here or using the following URL:

http://techjaunt.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/book-review-oracle-certified-associate-java-se-7-programmer-study-guide-by-richard-m-reese/

[Book Review] The Complete Yes Minister – The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister by the Right Hon. James Hacker MP by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay


This was one review that has long remained pending.

This is a fantastic book. The portable form of Yes Minister sitcom that rocked BBC in 1980s. In India, we have  had a hindi TV-series by the name of “JI Mantriji” and many countries have had TV series based on this book.

I love humorous books and stories and am a pucca Wodehousean and a great fan of Jeeves, Wooster and Psmith. The characters created by Wodehouse are immortal. Similarly, the characters of Yes Minister are straight from the world near you. You can see the same politics happening around you in your own country.

It is really a nice book. Recommended for all.

 

[Book Review] IshqFareb by Chandan Pandey


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Recently, I got an opportunity to read a Hindi book IshqFareb authored by Chandan Pandey. The book consists of three short stories all telling the story about Love and Hatred, Love and Betrayal and stories are all weaved with how love is cheated with treachery.

Chandan Pandey is a winner of Indian Jnanpeeth Navlekhan Award 2007 and truly, his stories and way of writing deserve this prize. It is encouraging to see that people are still writing in Hindi when our entire generation is focusing on the English Literature by Indian Authors.

Writing of Chandan Pandey is lucid and very contemporary. I felt a kind of relief in reading the stories and felt that the future of Hindi Literature will be bright only if writers and authors in Hindi of the likes of Chandan Pandey are encouraged. I thank Penguin India to take up the cause of Hindi Literature and welcome their step to publish novels and story books in Hindi language.

Now coming back to the book. The book has three stories: ‘City Public School, Varanasi’, “Shehar Ki Khudai Mein Kya Kuchh Milega”, and “Revolver”. The First one is set in a co-ed school and brings you the memory of school days. The story is about three teenagers and a kind of love triangle narrated beautifully.

The second one is set in college and though my college life is not anywhere near the act, it really is touching to see the two lover separated due to miscommunication and suspicion. Another brilliantly told story.

The third one Revolver is about betrayal, hatred and crime and this one certainly steals the show. The kind of thought gone behind this story is amazing and how much I enjoyed reading is hard to express in words.

There were certain negatives like lack of enough proof reading and certain grammatical mistakes. These I think can be easily ignored. I also did not like the paper on which the book is printed. I know it can be resolved if we get more Hindi readers to buy, love and buy again the Hindi books, as it will then only be economical to publish these books in the choice of papers that they actually deserve to be printed.

Rating: With hope for the best for the Hindi Literature, I would rate the book 4/5.

Final Verdict: Must read for Hindi enthusiasts and lovers.

P.S.:- I received this book as a gift from the publishers, Penguin India in exchange of a review of this book on my blog. 

[Book Review] Trade Winds to Meluhha by Vasant Dave


Finally, I had the opportunity to read this novel, which has been long pending, due to one reason or the other and more of my laziness. Since it was an e-book and I do not have any e-book reader that I can carry around, I was not able to concentrate on the novel while reading on my computer. Finally, last week my wife gifted me a smartphone; I quickly decided to read all the pending e-books, and the first to hit the ball was Trade Winds to Meluhha by Vasant Dave. Trade Winds To Meluhha

Trade Winds to Meluhha has been set in 3rd millennium BC, the same time when Indus Valley Civilization or Harappa Civilization flourished in the region extending from Manda in North to Narmada estuary (Daimabad) in South, from Suktagendor (Baluchistan) in the West to Meerut (Alamgirpur in the East. The novel is set in IVC, Babylon, and Bahrain and most of the scenes are set in IVC and Babylon (Babili in novel). The story is about a young man Samasin, a Sumeru (present Iran was known as Sumer), who witnesses a muder and is later charged for that murder. Story revolves around how he had a narrow escape from death and how he travels from Babili (Babylon), via Bahrain (Dilmun), reached Lothal (Lothalur), and traverses most of the IVC (Meluhha) region in search of a man known as Siwa Saqra to give him the last message from the man whose murder he had witnessed. The story talks about his heroics and romance in Meluhha and Babili.

The author has done justice to the prehistoric setting and has taken ample care to use archaeological evidence available for that time while using them in his novel. At the sametime he has taken creative freedom to derive a story that matches the chord with the readers. The Archaeological evidence suggests that there were trade relations between IVC and Mesopotamia as many seals of IVC have been discovered from Mesopotomian sites. Also, the Mesopotamian records from about the same period in which the novel has been set refer to trade relations with “Meluhha”, which is the ancient name of Indus region. The text also speaks about two intermediate trading stations called Dilmun and Makan identified with Bahrain in the Persian Gulf and MakranCoast or Oman respectively. And the author has used these linkages to establish a trading relationship in his novel as well as the title of the novel itself suggests.

It is always difficult to write a historic novel and given to understand that there are many novels based on history especially Indian history available in the market, this novel stands out from the lot. It has been well researched and does justice to the archaeological evidence available in IVC and other cultures of the same period and literary evidence available from Mesopotamia. Written in a lucid style, novel never seems to lose its continuity – the very reason I completed the e-book on my mobile in a week’s time. There were some spelling mistakes and typographical errors, which I think, can be ignored given the quality of story line produced by one of the creative thinkers. I wish to see more of similar creativity by Vasant Dave. Till then waiting for the sequel to the novel that he has promised in the section, “How this Pre-Historic Novel was Written,” an interesting read in itself.

My rating 5/5. Believe me, it will keep you engaged! :) History will never be as interesting as it is presented in this novel.

P.S.:- I had received the book as a gift from Vasantji in Feb 2012, for nothing in return.

[Book Review] The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi


If I have to give a single phrase verdict for the book then it would be Well-researched. Ashwin Sanghi has written a well-researched book, engraved deep into the History of the Indian Sub-continent and linked it well with the history of South Asia.

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I love history, especially Ancient Indian History from the times of Indus Valley Civilization through Vedic Period and Buddhism to the reigns of Harshawardhana. The complete material history of the period has some continuity. It has been a well-proven fact that Indus Valley Civilization was not robbed off its glamour by a migrating tribe of Aryans from Western Asia. However, no one has been able to say that the same group of people represented Indus Valley Civilization and Vedic Society. Nevertheless, Ashwin Sanghi has presented this theory, though as a part of fiction, in a very efficient and effective manner.

While reading the book, I somehow forgot that I am reading a work of fiction and read the book as a commentary on Indian History. I would consider this as a commentary on Indian History only if it was not produced in the way it was, it actually was defining the new History for India. Ancient History has always been confusing what with several distortions by both Foreign (especially English) and Nationalist authors who in an attempt to prove their points about Golden Era of India tried to divulge things, which were not there. Ashwin Sanghi’s book comes as great breather as it shares the same sentiments as my understanding and interpretation of the history goes.

The story revolves around Dr. Saini, who is a professor of History, who also happens to be the descendents of Yadava clan of the times of Krishna. The aim of the Dr. Saini is to prove that he is not the murderer of his friend Dr. Varshaney, an Archaeologist based in Kalibangan. To prove himself right, Dr Saini begins the quest for The Krishna Key. How he interprets different signs and symbols, proves his innocence, and finally deciphers the Krishna Key is the main theme of the story. I will not divulge much of this here. If you want to find out then just grab your copy and start reading.

If you love history and are open to different point of view of interpretation then go for this book. It is a must read. There were few instances of poor proofreading towards the end of the book, but they can be easily ignored. Actually, the book will attract your attention so much, that you will not have time to think about these mistakes. So, do not worry about them.

My rating 4.5/5.

Note: I received an author-signed copy of this book as a gift from My Smart Price in return of a review of this book on my blog. 

[Book Review] I, Rama: Age of Seers (Book – 1) by Ravi Venu


Ramayana has been the epic the story of which has been told and retold and is still being told. There is an enchanting literary colour that has been liked by many and is still being liked and loved.

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“I, Rama” – is an unique first person account of how the famed Hero-monarch would narrate his tale, as seen by him, his point of view of the spectacular events that unfold, chronicling the path which immortalized his name, from a mere prince to the very epitome of manliness. The first volume of the series starts with Rama in his late years, narrating his tale to his sons and close friends. The characterization models itself on how an evolved human who has been transformed into a super hero guided by imbibing the distilled essence of the supreme spiritual masters. The story has been told and re-told several times that I will not mention it here. Nevertheless, there are certain things about the book that are worth mentioning over here. (ref)

We all know that character and personality of Rama is synonymous to that of the perfect being, the ideal person. Ramayana depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king. The ideal portrayed by the character of Rama has been unfathomable by a common being, a common man can hardly think of himself to be a Rama but he always wants to be him. Throughout the book, Ravi Venu has projected Rama experiencing human emotions and vulnerability that every human faces whether when he is talking about his father Dashrath, or talking about his stepmother Kaikeyi or Sita or anyone else.

Ravi Venu has also tried to portray some of the main characters of Ramayana in a different light by bringing a new twist in the story. We all know that Kaikeyi was responsible for sending Rama into exile to put her son on the throne. She is portrayed as an intelligent warrior queen who was responsible to make Rama choose to go for exile and thus end Ravana and his misdeeds. I liked this portrayal of Kaikeyi’s character.  This is something unique and I liked howRavi has presented this in his story of Rama. Moreover, all the female characters have been presented as having strong character and virtues, which is a good thing to be seen in the literature and a welcome change from the regular portrayal of female characters. Hope this trend grows further.

The significant portion of the book is devoted to Seers and Sages and details the lives of some seers and sages among which story of Vishwamitra and Meneka has been told again. Also, a significant portion of the  novel is devoted to Raja Dashrath, father of Rama and the relationship of Rama with him.

I know that some people are definitely not going to like the portrayal of different characters that the author has taken the liberty to sketch differently. However, there is bound to be different understanding of epics by different people and I am all open to accept this liberty. Even the epic Ramayana as it currently stands and attributed to Valimiki has been the work of thousands of years and has added to the original story and is the work of understanding, thought and visualization of numerous authors.

A quote from the book that I liked,

…nobility is defined by the way one conducts his life…

I really liked reading the book and hope and appreciate the wayRavihas tried to redefine the epic. This is the first part of the trilogy and eager to read the next two books lined up in the series.

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