Book Review: Bombay Swastika by Braham Singh

“Their two banshee wails came together to wax before dying off into the distance.” – Braham Singh

Hey there, readers! I know it’s been long, but I’m back now and this week I was able to get my hands on Bombay Swastika by Braham Singh. 

Let us get into the review, shall we?

 

Blurb:

Bombay Swastika swings from a Nazi Berlin gearing up for its Final Solution, to 1964 Bombay, where Ernst Steiger, a German Jew, accidentally finds himself caught up in the murder of a young tribal, killed amidst allegations of something being stolen from a secure American compound. With the monsoons laying siege on the city, the reader accompanies Ernst past Bombay’s refugee camps and haunted whorehouses; food shortages, textbook mafias, communist protests against American PL 480 Food Aid, and peculiar happenings at India’s nuclear facility; where Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, the nation’s atomic mastermind, gets drawn into a conspiracy hatched in his absence.

This one-of-a-kind thriller unfolds through the eyes of a motley cast-Salim Ali, the South Indian, Muslim engineer and committed Marxist; Bhairavi, the enigmatic and sensual refugee girl; Sethji, the dowry messiah; Tsering Tufan-Homi Bhabha’s Smiling Buddha-dying from radiation exposure; and Andhi Ma, the blind mendicant who sees what we can’t.

Bombay Swastika is an exploration of the dark world of absolute truths.

Title:

The word ‘Swastika’, a symbol of spirituality, was twisted into a symbol of hatred by the Nazis as they used it to inculcate widespread rallies across Germany. The author here, used the titled to represent the connection of the Black Swastika in the form of Ernst, a Jew, who lands up in Bombay.

Besides the literal meaning, what is amazing about the title is how sophisticated and catchy it sounds while also managing to remain relevant to the plot of the book.

Title Rating – 5 / 5

Cover:

 

Upon first glance, the cover is nearly ordinary. However, it is only on looking closer that it becomes evident how striking the imagery really is. A woman wrapped in a red cloth, with a swastika locket dangling  behind her down to her back. To me, it depicted strangulation by a weirdly contorted symbol of well-being.

Fabulous.

Cover Rating – 4.5 / 5

Plot:

“Truth be told, he still didn’t know what to make of his father’s life or his mother’s death..” – Braham Singh

There is no doubt that this book is an outright thriller right from the start.  Without having the elements of an action, the adventurous approach to the plot made it seem all the more fast-paced while realistically setting us towards a gripping experience. It isn’t just a story, it’s a movie in words. Bombay has been portrayed in very high detail though set around the 1960s and this provides an insight into India from the past.

“As with most buildings, bulbs were optional and the corridors cast long shadows.” –  Braham Singh

The author has a very strong sense of language and it was nearly impossible to find any errors within the book. That being said, the diction and the vocabulary seemed a little too overpowering at times, making it a little difficult to stick to the scene. In some places, however, this seemed necessary. The author did a fantastic job in connecting loose ends and finishing off the story on a sweet note.

“A beauty of sorts crept into the night and a feeble moon looked down at India.”  – Braham Singh

There is such keen characterization in the novel that one almost misses to focus of the story. Each character has been etched with such depth and glory that it easily dominates the plot. This, in fact, is a good thing because it ensures that the novel sticks with you for long afterward the reading is done.

Overall, it is a highly engaging and an enjoyable read.

Plot Rating – 4 / 5

I loved…

  1. The writing style
  2. The Characters
  3. The plot

I wanted…

  1. A more realistic ending
  2. Less profanity

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

Verdict: Definitely Worth Every Penny!

Order your copy from any of the links below:

Amazon India

Amazon (US)

 

 

Book Review: The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter by Shilpa Raj

“No matter what, love doesn’t die with death.” – Shilpa Raj

This week I was able to get my hands on The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter by Shilpa Raj  which is a memoir of this young woman’s experiences as she and her family was forced to face the wrath of society’s disease called ‘untouchability’ and fate’s destiny called ‘poverty’.

Let us get into the review, shall we?

 

Blurb:

Saved by her grandmother from being killed at birth for having been born a female, Shilpa’s life took many unexpected turns and twists through her early years. She faced abandonment by her mother, the formidable constraints placed on her by her family, and the barbs of village elders bound by hundreds of years of oppressive practices and customs that subjugate women. Shilpa is torn between the contrasting lives she leads: one of servitude and injustice experienced by her family; the other of opportunity and empowerment offered by a good education in a school started by a philanthropist.

Just when all seems settled, an unforeseen death under mysterious circumstances shatters whatever stability remains in her life. Pulled in opposite directions, and torn between despair and dreams, Shilpa finally makes a choice for her future. Is she strong enough to stand up to the people she loves, and pursue what she wants?

At its heart The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter is about hope, when all seems lost. Written with raw honesty and grit, this is a deeply moving memoir of a young girl confronting her ‘untouchable’ status in a caste-based society, and her aspirations for modernity.

 

Title:

The title is beautiful and it aptly describes what the memoir is about. Shilpa’s narrative is shown to readers through her eyes but the title has a sweet connection to her roots. I found it beautiful for her to fearlessly tag herself as an Elephant Chaser’s Daughter and proudly show her history to the world.

Title Rating – 4.5 / 5

Cover:

The cover of the memoir is that of a young girl amidst a village background. Her face is unseen from the sun’s rays. The cover is serene, picturesque and has a melancholic feel to it. I love the way it fills me with peace but also how it gives a peek into what the narrative is all about. It’s apt with regards to the title and to the storyline. I loved it.

Cover Rating – 5 / 5

Plot:

“As years passed, I often found myself feeling guilt-stricken at how I came to have so much compared to my family.” – Shilpa Raj

As I read through the pages of the memoir, I found myself getting increasingly absorbed into Shilpa’s tale. She tells her story beautifully through the first person narrative and that adds to the connection that the reader builds with her. The tale talks about her entire family, the troubles they went through and the hardships they had to face to get to the stage they are at today.

“The word ‘plane’ made everything seem so distant…” – Shilpa Raj

The language is fluent and simple to understand. It has a wonderful flow to it which makes it all the more appealing. I love the way the paragraphs are split as that helps the story flit from past to present which is how it is written. My favourite part was that about her sister which was told beautifully.

“I was anxious to see my mother, and nothing else could be more important.” – Shilpa Raj

There isn’t a systematic flow to the tale which is very engaging and, for me, one of the highlights of the novel. I feel like the entire story became double the times more interesting because of the timelines interchanging and Shilpa’s history mingling with her present. What makes it even better is that there is no confusion despite the form of this narrative which shows the author’s skill of story telling.

Plot Rating – 5 / 5

I loved…

  1. The fluency in the writing
  2. The diverse timelines the tale travels through
  3. The author’s ability to tell her story without creating confusion in the reader’s mind

I wanted…

More conversations! That is my only suggestion / critical aspect about the book.

Overall Rating: 5 / 5
Verdict: Worth Every Penny!

Order your copy from the link below:

Amazon India

 

 

Book Review: Brahmahatya by Rajiv Mittal

“Sleep alone could bring the peace he sought.” – Rajiv Mittal

Hey there, readers! I know it’s been long, but I’m back now and this week I was able to get my hands on Brahmahatya by Rajiv Mittal which stands for ‘the act of killing a Brahmin’ in Sanskrit.

Let us get into the review, shall we?

Blurb:

A story of revenge and redemption and deeds shaped by forces that humans believe they have defined through mythology and scriptures but still struggle to understand.
A woman employee of a retirement home is shocked to discover that a new resident is in fact the son impersonating his father. The son is seeking revenge. She, by her past actions, is unwittingly complicit in his being there and now tries to thwart his peculiar plans. A senile woman-resident and an enigmatic founder offer him sage advice. The samudra manthan (a major episode in Hindu mythology), a slightly dim secretary and a sinister boss play their part in ensuring justice is finally served but in an unexpected manner.

The novel quotes frequently from the ancient Hindu scriptures and stories that the protagonists use to justify their actions. The treatment of the elderly in society is a major theme.

 

Title:

The most appealing thing about the title is the Sanskrit meaning to it. I found the depth of the word and the possible circumstances surrounding it to be quite fascinating. It has the two elements I search for in any title. The attraction factor and the arousal of curiosity.

Title Rating – 5 / 5

Cover:

The cover has a holy feeling to it and makes it seem as though the book has a very religiously philosophical approach to it – both of which are fabulous as it sets a record with the readers before they start reading the book. However, my only comment is that I wish it was more catchy as the current cover is a bit bland and dull.

Cover Rating – 4.5 / 5

Plot:

“The sound of its siren was now strident, continuous and very frightening in its urgency..” – Rajiv Mittal

At the start of this book, I was wondering how a heavy topic could be portrayed in a fictional  and light-hearted manner. But as I read through the pages, I realized that the author did a fantastic job in deducing a wonderful flow among the situations and the characters. What specifically stood apart for me was the character ‘Bhavna’ who connected to me instantly due to the strength of perseverance.

“His father’s bed seemed to be waiting for him to return.” –  Rajiv Mittal

The language is fluent and simple to understand. It has a wonderful flow to it which makes it all the more appealing. There is a third person narration which I found quite apt though a singular narration from a specific point of view would have also suited the story immaculately. That being said, this is probably one of the more descriptive pieces of writing I have read so far which makes it appealing to me.

“The two men remained silent visitors of the night.”  – Rajiv Mittal

It is a highly engaging and an enjoyable read. The author did a fantastic job in connecting loose ends and finishing off the story on a gentle note.

Plot Rating – 5 / 5

I loved…

  1. The writing style
  2. The conversational aspects
  3. The author’s clarity of thought
  4. The plot

I wanted…

  1. An element of mystery
  2. Less confusion among a couple of dialogues

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

Verdict: Worth A Read!

Order your copy from any of the links below:

Amazon India

Amazon (US)

 

 

Book Review: Once Upon a Time in College by Gumlat Maio

I just read Once Upon a Time in College by Gumlat Maio.
Here is what I thought.

BOOK COVER:

The cover is simple, elegant and catchy. The characters on the cover are extremely cute and I thought it was witty of the author to use illustrative images rather than real people. It gives a more lively, fun vibe.

Cover Rating – 4 / 5

TITLE JUSTIFICATION:

Given that the plot is centering around the emotions and the vibrations of college life, I will say that it is best suited. The title ‘Once Upon a Time in College’ has been written inventively on the cover which adds to the attraction factor.

However, the title did not catch my attention as it didn’t justify the beauty of the plot completely.

Title Rating – 3.5/5

PLOT

The genre is romance and also contains dashes of humour within, but it allows the plot to go deeper that that as well. The credit goes to the author for being able to entwine emotions with depth and a touch of philosophy as well. The main characters ‘Gaam’ and ‘Sonam’ have been portrayed very well. I love the characterization of both these protagonists though my personal favourite of the two is Sonam.

The plot traverses in and around romance while highlighting very important features of college such as the relationship between a senior and a junior, how stress from peers can cause repercussions, the mentality of a college student and the result of impulsive decisions. Now all this concludes on quite a philosophical note, teaching us not one but many lessons along the way.

It was an enjoyable read. The writing style is great with minimal errors and the plot in interesting.

Rating – 4 / 5

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

Anyone who is in the peak of their college lives or would like to relive their varied aspects should definitely read this book for nostalgia and relativity.

Final Rating: 4 / 5
Verdict: Recommended!

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Book Review: The Highway Man by J. Alchem

Usually, when I hear about a book of short stories,  it is usually a collection of 12 – 15 stories. But with this one, I was surprised. It only consisted of three stories and was a pretty short read. So, I’m going to center my review in a detailed manner around these.

Firstly, the synopsis. I was quite disappointed with this mainly because of the grammatical errors. It didn’t manage to capture my attention. But nevertheless, I will add here that the book did hold more surprises than the synopsis did. I would suggest for the author to get a couple of expert opinions before rolling out the synopsis of his next books as that is what draws attention of the readers.

 

 

Second, the cover. This is entirely to each his own which is why I won’t say much but though it was classy, I wasn’t thoroughly impressed. I generally look for two factors – how catchy the cover is and how it connects to the plot. I wish the author chose something like a blend or an abstract form for his cover.

Now, the plot. There are a total of three stories. ‘Catherine‘ shows a side of love that deals with mindless obsession of an author with  a physician. What’s beautiful about this story is how the  author dealt with the ending of the plot. I personally found it quite entertaining and that is the steal of this story.

Sidzy, for a day‘ is a story  between a ‘very much in love’ couple who go out of their way to express their feelings for one another. This was the weak link in the book for me and I personally did not enjoy this story though I am very sure that a lot of people did. However, I did love how the author vividly described the romance between the two characters.

Finally, ‘The Highway Man‘. I heard a lot about how this was the best story of the book and given that the title of the entire book revolves around this one, I was eager to find out. It’s about a widower who copes with life as a single father. I thought it was touching and very moving. The author’s writing style really shone through.

Overall, it was a short and enjoyable read. I definitely recommend it. A special mention to the ‘acknowledgements’ section of this book – It is unlike anything I’ve read before. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Cover Rating – 3.5 / 5
Plot Rating – 4 / 5
Title Rating – 3 / 5

Overall Rating – 4 / 5

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Book Review: Karma by Kevin Missal

I just read Karma by Kevin Missal and found it quite thrilling.

The book cover was fantastic and had an eerie feel to it. It has the vibe of a horror film which made it even more appealing to me. I love the colour combination and the feel of it. Coming to the title,  I have to say it was bang on to the plot. Short, catchy and intriguing. It had all the right elements to it. Also, I have to mention, this being an ‘instaread’, which basically means it’s much smaller than the usual novel, I definitely was excited because I’ve never seen anything quite like it… A tiny book with so much of depth to it. Great job on that.

 

 

Now, the main plot. The blurb behind the book is excellent. It’s very short and creates a lovely anticipatory feeling.  It is a very engaging read about a widower who begins to see his dead wife. What follows is a series of events, twists and lessons that unravel a rather complicated mess. The book leaves you feeling content, yet with a hint of a doubt in your mind, which seems like what the author intended to do with his story.  The writing style is good, the flow is constant and I wasn’t bored anywhere. Another factor to take into consideration is how the author cleverly inter-played a few of our societal issues today, in a caste-based as well as legal mix-and-match. This fits well with the theme.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, one that takes less than an hour to complete. Definitely money’s worth. I recommend it.

 

Cover: 4/5
Title: 5/5
Plot: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Book Review: Twenty Twenty – A Race Against Time by Anuraag Srivastava

I just read Twenty Twenty – A Race Against Time by Anuraag Srivastava.
Here is what I thought.

 

BOOK COVER:

I personally did not like the book cover. It just didn’t seem like a lot of effort was put into it. It is unoriginal and bland. Sadly, this just did not work for me.

Cover Rating – 2.5 / 5

TITLE JUSTIFICATION:

The title is perfect for the plot and the story. I felt that it fit well with the essence of the novel. Time is always something that we have no control over. It slips out of our grasp before we even know it. That justifies the plot as well as the title quite well.

Title Rating – 5/5

PLOT

The genre is Thriller, which is very evident both from the cover and the title. However, there is so much more to the story than just that. The story revolves around two siblings who find themselves caught in a seemingly impossible situation where they have just twenty days to relieve themselves from their own stressful adventure.

The part I loved most about this book is that it has two female protagonists, both portrayed as powerful and sophisticated women who are able to hold their ground. It revolves around the troubles they face, the manipulations they have at the center of their hands and the relationships that are tethering at the edge of breaking points. It is very admirable to see that the author has been able to portray a side to women that isn’t really acceptable within the Indian Society. These two sisters do everything that a man does and gets away with – be it sex, power and even redemption.

It was an enjoyable read. The writing style is very good and the book is quite fast paced.

Rating – 5 / 5

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

Definite recommendation from my end. Worthy of reading and will linger with you for a long time.

Final Rating: 4 / 5
Verdict: Recommended!

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Book Review: Treacherous Desires by Kritika Sharma

I just read ‘Treacherous Desires’ by Kritika Sharma which turned out to be quite entertaining. Here is what I thought.

BOOK COVER:

There are three elements I look for in a book cover of which I take two very seriously. The first is the connection to the plot and the second is the attraction factor. The third element, which is as important as the two but is difficult to create is mystery.

The cover of ‘Treacherous Desires’ perfectly nailed the first two.

Cover Rating – 4 / 5

TITLE JUSTIFICATION:

There is a lilting melody in the way the title just dances off the cover. It’s seductive, it’s catchy and it sounds quite interesting. My only comment, if any, would have to be that the lack of mystery was what made it slightly less than perfect.

However, great job!

Title Rating – 4 / 5

PLOT

I will be honest when I say that romance isn’t always my first choice. However, when it came to this book, an apprehensive start turned into a wonderful burst of vibrancy across the pages.

The protagonist Kaya is a married woman who finds that trouble comes across her way in the form of another man – One whom she desires far more than she ever has her husband. In a series of heated moments, passionate circumstances and romantic sessions, Kaya finds herself thoroughly trapped… with no surrender.

Starting with the negative aspects of the book, which aren’t many, I felt that the writing didn’t travel at an even pace. What seemed strong and forthright in one scene was slow, pedantic and weak in another. Other than that, I wished that the writing style could be slightly more polished. It seemed like an amazing story lost among diluted dialogues and ill-constructed scenes.

What appealed to me in this story line was the high level of possibility of a similar situation occurring in reality. The author was able to perfectly capture the essence of an unhappy marriage, the innocence of a stranger’s attraction and the suffering of guilty consequences. The reader is automatically transported into a likewise situation and is left wondering – what would I do in a situation like this?

The best part about the writing style is how conversational it is and how it makes the story bounce off the pages without a moment of boredom.

Rating – 4.5 / 5

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

It has been ages since I read a book this light, breezy and engaging. The author is bold, her story has the right amount of intimacy it requires and balances off very well.

Final Rating: 4.5 / 5

Verdict: Most Definitely Recommended

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Book Review: It Ain’t College, It’s War! by Subhodeep Mukherjee

I just read ‘It Ain’t College, It’s War!’ by Subhodeep Mukherjee. Here is what I thought.

 

BOOK COVER:

This isn’t the most fascinating part of the book. I didn’t find the cover very appealing though it is symbolic to the plot.
Then again, this is purely based on perception.

Cover Rating – 3/ 5

TITLE JUSTIFICATION:

I haven’t seen many titles like this one. My only complaint is that I found it a bit too long. Other than that, it is a catchy title especially for those who are in the age surrounding college and its multiple experiences it teaches us in life.

Title Rating – 3.5/5

PLOT

To be honest, when I first picked this book up, I was apprehensive. Would this be the right choice for me to read? Being one who has never experienced college life, I wasn’t sure if it would catch my interest. But rest aside, I will definitely say that the author has the gift of converting a normal situation / scene into an interesting narration. That, I will say, is the strongest point of this book. It goes a long way in keeping a reader engaged.

Centered around a refreshing college atmosphere with student groups, peer pressure, ego-driven fights and steady infatuation, this book leads us through nostalgia. It is a conglomeration of new experiences, bad decisions, sudden consequences and life’s mysterious obstacles.

The author has a lovely style of writing and can weave imaginations with ease. The conversational, first person style of narration is a definite positive.

 

Rating – 4 / 5

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

An enjoyable read, a pleasant experience and a good impression. Will read more from the author.

Final Rating: 4 / 5
Verdict: Recommended.

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Book Review: Broken Radio by Nishant Nishit

I just read ‘Broken Radio’ by Nishant Nishit. Here is what I thought.

BOOK COVER:

This wasn’t very appealing to me. It was too straightforward and lacked the element of surprise that I was looking for. The cover symbolizes the title and vice versa. That is all there is to it.

Cover Rating – 2.5 / 5

TITLE JUSTIFICATION:

The title was one of the most interesting things about the novel. I loved the symbolism of it to a misinterpreted and wrongly directed ‘frequency’ which is the main subject of the book – The treatment of the outcast, the shoddy and the anti-social elements.

Good job on the title!

Title Rating – 4/5

PLOT

If it hadn’t been for the blurb at the back, I would have gotten quite annoyed with the novel. I am giving extra points to the book and the author for being to the point and boldly stating that this novel is NOT for everyone. That part is true. It really isn’t. It deals with some of the least spoken and most taboo subjects of the Indian mentality. It is harsh, it is brutal and it gets gritty in places. Which is why it doesn’t make for a calm and peaceful read. But that isn’t a complaint. It’s just a fact.

I, for one, am not into such gore or any gore for that matter. But I was interested to see the depiction more than the story line. Most often, it isn’t about what is said but the way it is said. I have to say that I am neither impressed nor disappointed. Because while the author focused on the ‘realistic’ elements of society that people often don’t like to think about, he lost track of the way it was portrayed.

The writing style was good. It was written clearly and in a sophisticated manner. However, the editing was not on point. There were too many repetitions of words and the vocabulary seemed quite restricted. If I had to suggest one thing to the author, I would say that I will be waiting to see something more mellowed down from him. He has true potential. While I am not going to expect for him to follow the herd, I would certainly love to see different dimensions of writing without having him lose his identity along the way. Something along the lines of – erotica, drama or a thriller, perhaps.

Rating – 3.5 / 5

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

I was really looking forward to seeing how the story would end. But it traveled at an even pace with a couple of dull moments here and there. A salute to the author for staying true to himself and standing out in a commercial crowd. Congratulations for a valiant move.

Final Rating: 3.25 / 5
Verdict: A Brave Attempt!

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