Birds, Beasts and Bandits: 14 days with Veerappan by Krupukar and Senani

Birds, Beasts and Bandits: 14 days with Veerappan by Krupukar and Senani

Birds, Beasts and Bandits: 14 Days with Veerappan is the experience of Krupukar and Senani, two wildlife film-makers. This book was originally in Kannada and was translated by S.R.Ramakrishna.
In 1994, the authors come to Bandipur to begin a long term study of wild dogs and make a documentary on them. They build a house adjoining the forest and live there. They are mistaken to be highly paid Government officials by Veerappan and Co and are kidnapped by them. He cannot pronounce their names correctly and calls Senani, Sheni and Krupakar, Krupa. He speaks more to Senani because, of the two, he can converse better in Tamil. They are made to walk in the forest and more people are abducted.
In the forest, they discuss about birds, wildlife, governments, police and jungle experiences. They realize that Veerapan has an in depth knowledge of forests and wildlife. He can interpret the language of the forest and animal calls and has the sensitive grasp of a great writer.
The hostages were fed the unchanging menu of rice and saaru twice a day and his gang would feed the captives first without eating themselves. They would even try to give them some meat at times. They develop familiarity with the gang and are sad to leave them on being and try to postpone the departure.
The book was funny at times, like Krupakar using a spark lighter to light a gas stove fascinates both Veerappan and his guards; the ‘strong’ tea prepared by his men; the description of hornbill and Veerapans mimicking of the animal hunts.
It made me realize that Veerappan was after all a human being just like you and me. He also had his likes and dislikes. He had curiosities; fascination and belief in God. He had his own fears and his own justification for what he was. He was proud of his ‘name’ and anxious about his reputation.
It is a very interesting book. Especially, the narrative style, with the name of the narrator is mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph. The book keeps you hooked till the very end.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Penguin India

The Backbenchers: 3 days of Summer by Sidharth Oberoi

The Backbenchers: 3 days of Summer by Sidharth Oberoi

This is the third book in the Backbencher Series, and I happened to buy it seeing the cover, which is different from the other books that we read. I have not read the previous two books of the series and so when I sat down to read this book, I did not know what to expect.

The blurb:
Ananya has never been to Summer camp before and that’s exactly what school seems to be offering this time.
And not just that – they are offered the chance to undergo a hands on workshop with India’s leading authority on digital photography.

Natasha- eager to rediscover herself, signs up too. The boys join in on the fun and the expedition is led by a young, vibrant new teacher.

But things never are what they appear to be- and it soon turns out that their teacher has her own hidden agenda behind the workshop. An eccentric genius photographer tries to play the kids against each other and they find themselves square in the face of danger, in a tropical rainforest, nonetheless. In the midst of that action, Yuvraj and Ananya cross a new threshold in their relationship.

Will it last? Will they prove their mettle when their ability to work as a team is questioned?

Join the unbeatable, indomitable backbenchers in a trip right across the country and gaze into the wild through their docile, yet remarkably vivid lenses.

The review:
The story is about class XII students of Presidency Convent, a premiere school in Delhi on Barakhamba Road. Their new Senior Wing English teacher, Mitali Roy, after discussion with the Senior School Headmistress wants to enroll five kids, whose parents have given consent to the trip, for a field trip to Masinagudi, in the rainforests of Tamil Nadu for a photography project under the mentorship of Sanjib Desai, a highly awarded and recognized photographer. Finally, four students accompany her on the field trip- Ananya, Yuvraj, Natasha and Shreya.
Anaya is a simple human being who likes being happy. Yuvraj is preparing to crack the JEE or SAT. Natasha is a rich girl, who thinks only of herself and Shreya, Natasha’s best friend, plans to complete Great Expectations in this trip.

Before they set out, they receive some instructions for the camp and also a riddle with a very attractive prize. They reach Chennai and meet Abhinav from Doon Academy for Boys, who is to travel with them to Singara from where they would be taken to the cottage where they would be staying. There they meet Urvashi Nambiar from Good Shepherd International School at Ooty.

Next morning, the camp starts and the adventure begins.

The book has been written well but the author has repeated the description of Masinagudi many times.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Grapevine

The Oath of the Vayuputras by Amish Tripathi

The Oath of the Vayuputras by Amih Tripathi

After finishing both the first books of the Shiva’s Trilogy, I was very keenly wanting for the third because I wanted to know what happens in the end. I even pre-ordered it so that I could start reading it with the rest of the country.

In this book, Shiva meets Brahaspati at the Naga capital of Panchavati and comes to know about Somras and its ill effects on the people of India. Using the waters of Saraswati to manufacture Somras resulting in the depletion of the river’s water and the waste generated being dumped in Tsangpo river leading to plague. Shiva declares a holy war on Meluha and asks people to stop drinking the Somras. Parvateshwar tells Shiva that though he believes in him, he is loyal to his country.

All the kingdoms choose their side. Shiva’s side comprises of the Nagas, the Brangas and the Vasudevs. The Swadweepan emperor Dilipa sides with the Meluhan King, Daksha. Shiva captures the city of Mrittikavatti and makes the citizens imprison the Meluhan army led by Vidyunmali. Shiva leaves for Pariha with Gopal to procure the deadly Brahmastra weapon, to threaten the Meluhans for peace with them. The chief of Vayuputras, Mithra, convinces the Vayuputras that Shiva is the real Neelkanth and gives him the Pashupathiastra which acts on a specific target. Parvateshwar baits Kali into leaving the entourage to save Panchavati.

Daksha gets Egyptian assassins to kill Shiva and Sati fights the assassins valiantly. The war ends and an enraged Shiva decides to use the Pashupatiastra to finish Devagiri forever along with the Somras manufacturing units.

To start with, since it was more than a year after I had read the first two books, I had to go back to relate to who’s who. Then I thought of the Wikipedia, and took a print out of the list of characters to help me relate to them. There were parts in the book which were sad and parts where I felt that the violence was way too much. This book was too long; the story dragged and thus, was a big disappointment after the first two, the series ended with a bad taste in the mouth.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Westland

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

When I saw the new book by Jhumpa Lahiri, I was tempted to buy it. But I felt that it might just land up on my bookshelf, like all her other books, without being read. Why? Because, I had neither the time nor the inclination to read them, maybe because I felt they would be very serious books being nominated for various prizes. Anyways, I ordered “The Lowland” and when I saw it, I said, I must read it and I did.

The Back Cover:
Two brothers bound by tragedy.
A fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past.
A country torn by revolution.
A love that can last long past death.

The review:
1960s:
Subhash and Udayan Mitra are two brothers, fifteen months apart, Subhash being the older one. The story starts when Subhash is thirteen. Their father is a clerk in the Indian Railways and they live in Calcutta very close to the Tolly Club and sneak in there at dusk after the golfers have left. Since childhood, Subhash is the cautious one while Udayan was the active one. They look similar, have similar voices and wear clothes from the same pile, thus confusing others. They study in the same class in the same school but attend different colleges, Subhash studying chemical engineering and Udayan, physics. After post-graduation, they start tuitions to help in the family income. Udayan gets drawn by the Naxalite movement and is satisfied with an ordinary occupation but Subhash goes to America to do his PhD and supports his. They write to each other rarely and Subhash comes to know that Udayan has married Gauri against their parents’ wishes.

1970s:
He comes back to India after his brother’s death and as the dutiful son and brother, marries Gauri, to protect her and brings her back to Rhode Island. He gives her freedom to do as she desires. She has a daughter, Bela, with whom Subhash feels the same closeness with Bela, which he felt with Udayan. Gauri is selfish and indifferent as a mother. She studies philosophy and is more protective towards her manuscript than her own daughter.

1980s:
Subhash comes to visit his mother, after his father’s death, with Bela, who is now twelve. When he comes back, his world changes and so does his life.

My View:
The author has referred more than seventy years of the life of Subhash Mitra, as a baby, a young boy, a responsible son, brother, husband and father. The protagonists change as the book proceeds, first it is Subhash, then Gauri and then their daughter, Bela. The relationship between the brothers has been depicted beautifully as has the Indian-American immigrant experience. I felt for Subhash, the father, who loves Bela despite everything and for Bela, who suffers, for no fault of her.

A very serious piece of literature, deeply emotional; no wonder it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize 2013.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Vintage Books/ Random House India

The Secret of the Nagas by Amish Tripathi

The Secret of the Nagas by Amish Tripathi

The Secret of the Nagas by Amish Tripathi is the second book in the Shiva Trilogy and I started reading it as soon as I finished with the first one. As soon as I started reading the book, I wanted to know if Sati was safe in the hands of the Naga.

Shiva wants to take revenge against the Nagas, who, he thinks, have killed Brihaspati, and reaches Kashi in order to reach them. They travel to the Branga Kingdom, whose king is Chandraketu, to gather more information about the Nagas because, they find a Branga coin left behind by the Nagas. The entourage comprises of General Parvateshwar, Nandi and Veerbhadra, Ayurvati, and Bhagirath and Anandamayi, the prince and princess of Ayodhya.

Shiva travels to Branga and Sati stays back at Kashi to help the King, where she is assisted by the Naga soldiers in killing the Lions. The Nagas are humans with physical deformities who have been abandoned because the Suryavanshi law states so. They have their own kingdom, own set of laws. After various battles, they reach Panchavati, the capital of the Naga territory, which is a secret and discover that the Naga Queen is Sati’s twin sister Kali who was abandoned by their father because she was disfigured and had been taken away by the Nagas, same was the case with Ganesh, Sati’s son.

In Branga, Shiva meets Parshuram, who is a bandit and knows the secret recipe of a medicine. He comes back to Kashi and meets Kali and Ganesh, the Naga who he thinks is the killer of Brihaspati.

The language and the flow is good and so is the suspense. The book is fast paced and the way one chapter ends, one feels that let me move to the next chapter to see whether it takes off from where the first one ended.

If you have liked the Immortals of Meluha, the Secret of the Nagas is a must read to kill the suspense created there. The trilogy would not be complete without reading ‘The Oath of the Vayuputras’.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Westland

The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi

The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi

In ‘The Immortals of Meluha’, Amish Tripathi potrays Lord Shiva, Nandi and various other mythological characters as mortal human beings.

The book starts with Shiva and his fellow Gunas leaving their homeland and in search of safety and shelter and come to Meluha. On the way they are injured and are nursed to health by Ayurvati and her team. They are administered the Somras and after that Shiva’s throat turns blue and he is addressed as the Neelkanth – or the man with ‘blue throat’.

The Meluhans call themselves the Suryavanshis, followers of the Sun God, and believe in the Neelkanth. They also believe that it is “He” who would help them win over the Chandravanshis, the followers of the Moon God, of Swadeep, with whom they are war over their sacred river ‘Saraswati’. The Chandravanshis have a secret alliance with a cursed and disfigured group called Nagas, masters of martial arts.

King Daksha and his prime minister, Kanakhala, believe in him and only his lieutenant, Parvateshwar has his doubts. Shive falls in love with Sati, King Daksha’s daughter and they get married and have a son Kartikeya.

The main plot revolves around the battle between the Suryavanshis and the Chandravanshis and the terrorist attacks from the Nagas.

The book has mythology, garnished with romance and adventure. It is slow initially and as the plot deepens, so does the involvement in the book. Then it becomes gripping and then the story ends leaving you in suspense.

What do you do next? You want to get hold of the next book on the Trilogy ‘The Secret of the Nagas’ as soon as you can. I did just that.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Westland

The Guardian Angels by Rohit Gore

The Guardian Angels by Rohit Gore

I was attracted to the cover of The Guardian Angels and applied to review the book from the Tales Penseive. I received the book on 14th October 2013 and had seven days to read the 328 pages and write a review. I felt the time would be short as I had to manage the kids’ studies, home and office as well as complete the other book I was reading. But, in two days flat, I am done with finishing the book and writing and uploading the review.

The blurb:
The Guardian Angels is the epic and tumultuous story of two star-crossed lovers who weren’t just soul-mates but were also each other’s protectors.

The fates of Adi Mehta and Radha Deodhar are deeply entwined when within days of their first rendezvous they save each other’s lives.

Despite their vast sociopolitical differences, they are drawn to an uncertain future fraught with contrasting ambitions, personas and ideologies.

. . . he is the son of a billionaire, she is the daughter of a socialist.
. . . he is quiet and unassuming, she is a firebrand and spirited.

However, the unexplained phenomena ties them forever – whenever they are in peril, they are each other’s only saviors.

Over the following two decades Adi and Radha live through hope and despair, joy and sadness, and try to decipher their relationship. As the truth of their bond is revealed, they must confront the true nature of love, and ultimately, their destinies.

The Review:
He is a romantic and she, a realist- they are the closest of friends, belong to two different worlds but what bonds them together is more than friendship, they are soul mates and each other’s Guardian Angels.

The Guardian Angels is the story of the friendship of Aditya Mehta, Adi and Radha Deodhar, Radhi who meet when they are both twelve and Radha saves him from being hit by three seniors in the compound adjoining the backyard of the school. From then on, destiny ensures that they become each other’s protectors, saving each other’s lives- hence, the name Guardian Angels.

Aditya Mehta is the son of a billionaire, Karan Mehta, lives in a twenty-storeyed house. He is bullied by the children in his school, nobody talks to him. His mother, Naina Mehta is the Co-chairman of the Mehta Empire and Heena, his sister is two years older than him. Heena and Adi are like two Siamese twins separated by two years and are able to know about each other’s state of mind. To the outside world, Heena is the lively one and Adi, the queit one, but between them, this is reversed.

Radha Deodhar’s father works for a bank and gets relocated every two years and is very active in the trade union. She is very close to her middle class parents who are very supportive. She is very down to earth and principled. There is a history of Huntington’s disease in her family which she mistakenlt presumes to be forgetfulness. Radha does not like Adi’s rich status, taunts him about it and they have constant arguments because of this.

Only two people in the world know Adi like no one else, Radha and his cricket coach, Ghanekar Sir. His mother feels that it is Radha who keeps him grounded and real.

After 12th, Radha joins a course in socialism and Adi goes to the Michigan Technological University of USA. Their friendship, arguments, fights and reconciliations continue over phone and emails. She becomes a socialist and he joins the Mehta Group.

My take:
The characters have been very well developed and described. The story has been written from the perspective of all the characters. In almost every chapter of the book, the author has divided into Adi, wherein the author talks about Aditya’s part of the story and Radha’s Journal, which is dated, keeping the reader oriented in time.

The four parts the book has been divided into makes the understanding of the story better. The language used is very simple and the flow is good. The book is emotional at times and there are instances that I had tears running down my cheeks without even realizing that I was crying.

In my opinion, ‘The Guardian Angels’ is a book with an offbeat romance but the end left me hoping for more. Could it have been different???

Pages: 328
Book Source: Review copy from the Tales Pensieve
Publisher: Grapevine

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

Snowbound with the soldier by Jennifer Faye

Snowbound with the soldier by Jennifer Faye

One day, I received a tweet stating that Jennifer Faye follows me; I also started following her and that’s when I came to know that her new book, Snowbound with the Soldier, was being released the very same day. So I tweeted to her that I would read the book once it is released in India, and bought this book immediately. This the first book of Jennifer Faye that I have read and I really loved it.

It is the story of Kara and Jason, best friends since childhood, who dated for four years, got engaged to be married, he breaks the engagement, joins the army, she stays back in Pleasant Valley, takes up a job in a resort and suddenly, meet after seven years.

Kara Jameson, 28, works at Pennsylvania’s premier ski destination, Pleasant Valley’s Greene Summit Resort. She lives with her six year old daughter, Samantha. She knows that the resort has been sold and is worried about her job. What she does not know is that GSR Inc which has bought the resort is co-owned by Jason Greene. Jason left home after a fight with his father to join the army and now has been medically discharged and invested all his savings into the resort.

On the way back home from the resort, on that very day, Kara encounters a snowstorm, her car falls into the ditch, Jason rescues her and takes her to his home till the storm subsides. He asks her to work for him at the resort as his assistant. He and Samantha become good friends. She tries for him to reconcile with his Dad.

Overall, an excellent story, very apt for the theme of Christmas.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Harlequin India

his Captive Indian Princess by Tanu Jain

his Captive Indian Princess by Tanu Jain

A five year old illegitimate daughter of a Maharaj, whom he brings to his palace, to live with the family, amidst gossip, after her mother’s death and being portrayed as dishonest and conniving by your grandmother and half-sister- that’s the protagonist, Gauri Rao, for you.

Gauri, 22, is the daughter of Maharaj Sambhaji Rao of Mogragarh. She runs away at sixteen from the palace after being accused of bringing a bad name to the family, leaving a letter for her half-brother, Madhav, six years older than her, whom she loves and trusts. Mrs Meenakshi Singh finds her, takes care of her, her education and she becomes a lawyer and changes her name.

Vikram Pratap Singh, the prince of Bijagarh and Madhav’s best friend, also has had a disturbed and traumatic childhood. Madhav is the only person he can relate to. They have jontly set up a chain of luxury hotels. He has taken over the responsibility of Mogragarh after Madhav’s death, two years ago, and Maharaj’s stroke, leading to coma, one year ago.

He does not trust Gauri, but takes the responsibility of finding Gauri because he thinks she is responsible. Once he finds her, he brings her back to Mogragarh, takes her to meet the Maharaj, with the hope that she may be the stimulus that brings the Maharaj out of coma.

Being a romantic at heart, I liked the story but felt that the author has been very bold at many places in the book. She could have been a little less explicit.

Editing is poor as chapter 5 is 110 pages long and could have been made into several shorter chapters.

Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Harlequin India