Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: The Prince's Surprise Bride by Devika Fernando

Name of the Book: The Prince's Surprise Bride
Author: Devika Fernando
Star Rating: 4 stars 
Goodreads: Read the Blurb here 

Prince Erik of the Norse Kingdom of Eirik and Jessica's meeting was not at all what is expected in a fairy tale romance. A shift in their stars makes them become co-victims in a conspirator's act of kidnapping.  As the saying goes, strange circumstances make strange bedfellows.  So in the darkness when these two souls were forced to be 'cell-partners' they became each other's backbone. A friendship that carried them out of that world and into their own worlds. And now the question was would their two world, which was so different from each other, allow them to fall in love and think of a future?

Devika Fernando does it again. Creating two characters that are so beautifully meant to be for each other. A lovely read for any romance lover.

The Story line:
Is nothing new. In a romance novel, it's always a boy meets the girl and a conflict separating them anyways. But what made me turn the pages was the powerful attraction and the conflict that the author has managed to create.

The Opening Scene:

Where were they headed to, for God’s sake? Someplace secret and horrible where they could do unspeakable things to her?

Is one of the best subplots of this novel. You want to know where they will go from there. The hero is the knight in the shining armor and the heroine is in a bad situation despite being a strong counterpart to the hero. Good combination.

There was one scene which made me stop and re-read. A scene which brings out the uniqueness in the hero. A point where the girl is scared and the dashing prince sings a lullaby to her. It was so sweet and poetic and makes every romance reader wish that that could be true in their lives too. And not only in this scene. Later when he is thinking of their future together his thoughts were -

Flashes of her preparing breakfast for him and him returning the favor appeared in his mind.

Isn't that cute?

Devika Fernando has interlocked the characters from her previous books and series lovers will love it. One thing I couldn't help noticing were the number of action sequence this book had. From the kidnapping to the last scene, this book is studded with action scenes. All that was missing was the music :) Cinematographic.

Recommended for all those who would love an action oriented romance. 

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review: Rose Garden International by Sundari Venkatraman

Name of the Book: Rose Garden International 
Author: Sundari Venkatraman
Star Rating: 5 stars 
Goodreads: Read the Blurb here 

Is Jamie Scott, an Australian who travels to India to find out about the love his grandmother had for a particular land in Ooty. A strange restlessness was surrounding his heart and a call to go towards the unknown was calling out to him. And so after reading a diary of his grandmom, he sets on a journey to reach India. How romantic!

"The call of Ooty was too powerful. He had just one life to live. Might as well live his dream along with his grandmother’s wishes!"

She is Rhea Bansal. She has a legacy as her base where the name Bansal Hoteliers is a name to be reckoned with. But Rhea wants to make her mark for herself and that is what makes her move to Ooty to carry on the family traditions in the name of the Rose Garden International.

The love Story begins...

"Jamie turned swiftly from the reception and almost knocked against Rhea who had been a couple of feet behind him. “Oops!” He placed his hands on her shoulders. “I’m sorry I didn’t see you.” He gave her a lopsided smile, his green eyes crinkling at the corners as they studied the woman in front of him boldly."

Do read the above lines. That small touch, the blink of an eye moment when two souls meet and your heart tells you - he is the one. Ms. Venkatraman does a wonderful portrayal of what I call 'when you meet him' scenes.

The description of the surroundings is becoming Ms. Venkatraman's forte. The rose gardens, the ambiance, and the hotel's work culture- all have been caught beautifully by the author. I especially loved the research she had done on this subject and woven the information into her story. It's almost like me getting a tour of the hotel and the words in the speaker are of Ms. Venkatraman's.

“Air curtains have been created between the kitchens while the smells get absorbed by powerful chimneys. They have the added advantage of keeping insects and dust away,” said Aftab with a smile, bringing an answering smile to the guest’s face."

I liked the way the political negatives crept into the story. Very different from all the books I have read of Ms. Venkatraman's. Rhea comes out strong and not at all like a damsel in distress. A woman who can fight against anything and that is what makes Rhea stand out as a complete woman.

The story has a villain, a couple actually. A few nasty boyfriends and a perfectly made of each other couple. A Bollywood flick in the making?

My take on the novel:
A perfect read for romance lovers. The girl is intelligent and can stand for herself. The boy is a perfect hero material complimenting the girl, yet not getting overshadowed by her. The political goons are perfect for trying your kickboxing skills and the scenario - has all the oomph factors that Ms. Venkatraman's novels are known for.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Book Review: Ponni's Beloved - An English Translation Of Kalki Krishnamurthy's Ponniyin Selvan by Sumeetha Manikandan

Name of the Book: Ponni's Beloved
Author: Sumeetha Manikandan
Star Rating: 4 stars 
Goodreads: Read the Blurb here 

During the times when treason was a part of life and spies were roaming the streets of India, Ponni's Beloved is set during those times. A time when the Chola dynasty was at their zenith.

The story is introduced to the readers by a brave, young man, who is a great fighter too, and a messenger of Aditya Chola (forgive me if I got my history wrong). Aditya Chola, heir to the throne was suspecting a conspiracy and had sent Vandiya Devan to warn the King. In his journey, Vandiya Devan meets the different characters who play a role in the conspiracies, love affairs and secrets that generally go around in such princely dynasties.

Vandiya Devan introduces us to the lives of the natives at that period of time as he walks quietly on the banks of a  lake named Veeranarayana and introduces the readers to their way of life. Sumeetha Manikandan has done a fabulous job in capturing the essence of the great Tamil Literature. Though I have not read the original work, I have heard a lot about it from the Tamil side of my family. A revered literature, that is what this book is remembered as and I can understand this since, after so many years, even the translation has kept me enthralled enough to keep on turning the pages.

Many cultural appropriations have been mentioned in this text, which is typical of the thought process of the people of those times.

"But please don’t think that I am talking ill of them, the entire women race is like that. The women in your family are dark-complexioned beauties, whereas Pazhuvetarayar’s beloved is fair complexioned. That’s why they don’t like her. They are jealous...”

As you delve further into the story, such small incidents are mentioned which will help in painting the visuals of those times.

Keeping track of the names and places is a bit tough. But that can't be helped. It's the stories within stories that will fascinate you. Of betrayal, spies stories which will connect you to the thought process of that period. The fights between the followers of Shiva and the Vishnu bhakts bring out many of the philosophies followed during those times.

 The conspiracy against the heir to the throne and above all the power plays makes this an interesting read. In all these stories the character of Vandiya Devan is the one experiencing all the tales.

This book is the first in the series and we will have 4 more volumes coming up (I think) I will be eager to see if Sumeetha Manikandan has been able to do justice to all the volumes.

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Book Review: The Indus Challenge by Dr. Durgadoss

Name of the Book: The Indus Challenge
Author: Dr. R. Durgadoss
Star Rating: 4 stars 
Goodreads: Read the Blurb here 

It's a war zone:
When the title of a book is "The Indus Challenge' how can a mythological lover like me not pick it up? One cannot help but stare at the image of the book, wondering how much a war will influence the characters in this one. None of us are ignorant to the bloody times of the Mahabharata Period, where every character seemed to be born to play a role in the war.

The young lad who set an example of determination:
We have heard about Abhimanyu's spearing through the Chakravyuh but none of us can ever imagine how a chakravuyuh looked like.

Dr. Durgadoss showed it to us. By an illustration which is like a maze- a very difficult one at that. I even tried to trace lines to reach the ends of the maze. It's not easy. One must see the diagram to see what I am talking about. It made me close the book and think about the young lad who knew how to enter this "chakra" and entered it knowing well that he might not be able to come out of it. Our ancestors had guts, no doubt about that.

The Bold and the Beautiful
One story that fascinated me was that of Rudra and Swastika. His bravery and her boldness were complimenting each other. And I had never heard of this story before. Reading a modern day mythology is like hearing stories from the past in a new packaging. But Dr. Durgadoss has brought in new anecdotes which are very interesting. I suppose watching the serial Chandra Nandini made me visualize it more. Hailing from the land of the Mauryans, I was always fascinated by Chandragupta's story. He was my first historical love affair anyway.

But it has been always been from the Royal's POV. This was the first time I was standing along with the characters outside the palace and watching history unfolding.

Swastika, even from poison we extract nectar, we wash and take back gold if it has fallen in filth, receive the highest knowledge from a lowborn person; so also is a girl who possesses virtuous qualities, even if she is born in a disreputable family.
The Storyteller:
The author lets us travel across time using narratives and stories of the great men of those days. Many anecdotes surprised me. Draupadi asked to sleep with a horse - which she refused but instead put a bindi on the horse as a symbol of completion of the ritual. It was not her sleeping with the horse that surprised me - our ancient culture does not surprise me anymore. Sometimes I feel, symbolism has been twisted as the stories were mostly word of mouth. But what surprised me was the women of India - be it Draupadi or Swastika were bold and knew what they wanted. When Swastika's uncle wanted to marry her, he could have just forced her to marry but still, her consent was necessary. So when did women are the weaker sex syndrome start?

As mentioned above, we have many more philosophies and code of conducts discussed in this book. Some of them even surprised me to think they date back to such an extent. This is no doubt a very well researched book.

The language of the book:
The author has kept the tone of the book a bit archaic. It can be due to the subject, I don't know. It has a soothing quality - a narration, every mytho lover would love to go on and on. Some of you might find it a tad old fashioned but once you get used to it, believe me, this book is something one must read to get a glimpse of our ancient culture, where science, art, politics, and economics were not mere subjects, but a way of life.

My views:
I enjoyed reading this book. I think the story of Rudra is very well placed - for it captures a reader's attention from the start. In fact, I hated it when the author diverted from this story. A must read for all historical and mythological lovers.

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Book Review: Key to my Soul by Probal Mazumdar

Name of the Book: Key to my Soul
Author: Probal Mazumdar
Star Rating: 5 stars 
Goodreads: Read the Blurb here 

Key to the Soul - the title itself sounds so holistic. Like a small door opening the inner Tartarus of your soul. Mr. Mazumdar has cleverly chosen the title of the book - a revelation. A peek to the protagonist Siddharth's childhood. A childhood speckled with love and fraught with heartbreaks.  Somewhere along the lines of the story, you will become one with Siddharth - his genuine fears will not look heroic to you at all. For he is a normal guy. A guy like you and me who has all the fears of a bullied victim or caught in between the crossfire of Cupid. 
What raises him above from the rest is his ability to see life with a candor and wisdom.

Let's start with the prolog:

A call for help,  a few moans, buzzing flies and still alive. How can that not catch your attention? Will he live? Who is he? What happened to him to land him in this situation and more than that - what the heck is this story about? If all these questions start simmering in your heart, the author has done a wonderful job with the prolog. 

Coming of Age:
After reading quite a few coming of age novels I had one severe problem with all of them. However well written they are and however much articulate the language is, as a reader I keep on asking myself, why am I interested in your life? I mean why - how can your growing up as a child in school, lusting after a girl and showing me no destination of your life inspire me to read on. If simply put, I find other's life boring for I too have a life of my own which is enough to keep me waking up with a smile every morning. But Key to my Soul has crossed that barrier.

By introducing Hazel. The mysterious thread that played a role in making me keep on turning the pages.

Can you imagine how much of a curiosity it generates when after 17 years you get a phone call, " Her condition is serious. The accident was severe."

And then...

"She's in coma."

And then Siddharth takes us back to his childhood - either via memories or letters. Beautifully penned. 

Love, Life, and Dhoka ....

Again happens to everyone, so what makes it so special? The hidden layers. The 'whodunnit' plays a very important role in this story.  Many knives are slashed and many relationships are lost and also the fear that she will be a nun soon gave me some nail biting moments. 

The author has played a mind game with his readers. Layers after layers are revealed in every scene pointing towards the love story of Siddharth and Hazel. A childhood love story that one should outgrow of yet it latches on to every thought process of yours. 

"How can I help not falling in love with you? In that fall  I soar."  

What started as a classroom romance became the cause of two miseries. Siddharth and Hazel grew up together and their coming from different background made life tough for them.

My views...

A very well written, well-edited book. Will keep a reader hooked on to the pages and that thin line of mystery levels up this book from its contemporaries. It will make you raise many questions such as how well do we know our family? How well do we know our friends? Is giving up ever an option or does the past always catch up with us even if we have left it far behind? I just wish the relationship between Hazel and her father was a bit more explored.  The pain, the fear and those skin crawling moments would have added another dimension to this well-written novel.  I will happily give the book a 5 star for it made me shed a few tears and root for the protagonists to reach the finishing line. 

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