book review, Fiction, humour

Catch-22 – A Book Review

Book title – Catch-22

Author – Joseph Heller
Publisher – Vintage Books

No. Of pages – 570

The novel starts without much fanfare and I was unsure whether I would have the patience to read through all the 570 pages of it. But I pushed on and was I glad I did that.

The novel is a kaleidoscope of genres. If there is the silliest of humour, it is balanced by profound life lessons sprinkled throughout. The tragedy of a violent war is apparent throughout.

The scene changes skilfully from silly banter between fellow soldiers to a sudden struggle for survival.

The soldiers grapple for a semblance of sanity with death waiting around the corner. They try to live their lives, enjoying the few moments of illicit pleasure with gay abandon.

In all this mayhem of war, the author expertly captures the entire gamut of human frailties and characteristics, ranging from total avarice to total innocence.

The mentions of praise on the back cover of this bulky novel includes the following one, “Not only the best novel to come out of the war but the best novel to come out of anywhere in years”, by Nelson Algren. Though one may not agree wholeheartedly with this, but there is no doubt that every serious reader should have certainly read this one, once in his/her life.

Yatindra Tawde

 

book review, horror

Trail XIII – The Path to Perdition , a book review

Book title – Trail XIII – The Path to Perdition

Author – Various
Publisher – The Hive

The Hive are back to what they do best; frighten you out of your wits. And they are back to the ideal format, an anthology of 13 blood curdling stories. I always feel,  a compilation of 13 to 15 stories is ideal for an anthology.

Coming to the individual stories, there are quite a few which are page turners. Some of my favorites were –

 

A Legend of truth by Monica Singh – what seems like different stories of different characters are finally tied together in a crescendo of violence, after jumping different timeliness. The author has grip over her narration and never lets the story wander from it’s finale. A master story teller.

Summer Solstice by Srivalli Rekha – the author sticks to her strength, a fantasy of witches and normal people, at loggerheads with each other. And no guesses for who wins in the end. Srivalli weaves a tale which hypnotises you with unique characters and fantastical settings.

Look into my eyes by Anshu Bhojnagarwala – this story gave me the shivers every time the ghostly figure made an appearance. Something about child ghosts which gave me goosebumps. I can easily say, this is the best story by the author till date, atleast from all the stories from the author, which I have read till now.

Click Click, Bang Bang by Shankar Hosagoudar – the classic Shakespearean language, the old English setting and how the story unfolds to its gruesome finale  make it a must read. Great research by the author in churning out a masterpiece.

Mother Promise by Prachi Sharma – I had never read a story from the author before and was impressed with the way the story unfolded to its tragic climax in so few words. Another gem from the anthology.

The Dante House by Varadharajan Ramesh – Varadharajan never fails to surprise you and he succeeds with this story as well. The way the story unfolds and the twist introduced, surprises and shocks you.

Redivivus by Benjamin Wylde – the goriest and bloodiest story of this anthology, please read it on an empty stomach. Hats off to the author’s gory imagination.

Nani & the Shadows by Ell P – a good, engaging story but this time I found it a bit bland from what Ell P is usually capable of. She is capable of frightening you out of your senses but this story can be read at midnight.

The Seer by Richard Beauchamp – the international writers in this anthology are contributing excessive blood and gore and this story is as gruesome as one can imagine.

Insidious Thoughts by Angel Whelan – the author takes you through the psychological disintegration of the protagonist to its violent climax with great,  storytelling skills.

The Voice by Priya U Bajpai – a good story, it’s another one which brings down the gore as compared to some of the others in this anthology.

I would safely say, this is the best offering from The Hive till now and they really excel at frightening and thrilling the reader.

Go for it. It’s available on Amazon, Kindle as well as paperback.

Yatindra Tawde

 

 

 

book review

To kill a Mockingbird

 

Author – Harper Lee
Publisher – Arrow Books, The Random House

No. Of pages – 309

The children, Scout Finch and Jem Fincher and their creative friend, Dill have loads of fun and suddenly one is sucked into their lives. They enjoy themselves walking to and from the school, and you recall your own childhood. They make fun of their teachers and have their petty fights among themselves. While Jem progresses from a naughty boy to an early teen trying to show maturity, Scout, his younger sister continues to be her feisty self. In fact, she is the protagonist and the entire story unfolds from her point of view.

The denizens of Maycomb, where they live with their Lawyer Father, Atticus, go about their daily lives and one gets a glimpse of America in the 30’s. Or at least, a town in America in the 30’s. Or, the lives of a people in a town in America in the 30’s. It is a town in Southern America and an undercurrent of racism runs through the entire novel, some characters in the story for it while many against. But the children’s innocent life is always in the foreground. And you never realize that Harper Lee has actually dwelled upon the principles of humanity itself by tackling the serious topic of racism in the most subtle manner while you are charmed by the spunky and guileless children.

What stays with you, long after you have finished the novel, is the fact that Harper Lee has conjured up a mind grabbing story using humour and simple language.

Yatindra Tawde

 

book review

White as milk and rice – A review

Book title – WHITE AS MILK AND RICE

Author – Nidhi Dugar Kundalia
Publisher – Penguin Random House India

No. Of pages – 241

Frankly, when I went for this book, my expectations were different. I don’t know why but I had thought that the book will have stories from mythology of the various tribes of India.

But once I had read through the introduction by the author, I grasped that it was going to be something totally different from my initial expectations.

There are six stories but each story takes you to a different territory in the vast expanse of India, ranging from the hills of South India, the chambal ravines in the west, the forests of Central India and finally culminating in the North East.

You peek into the ordinary lives of some extraordinary tribals and the back stories of the protagonists and their tribes enrich your knowledge of many aspects of their history. Their daily struggle to keep their unique culture alive amidst the all encompassing march of modern life is what enriches the stories to the next level.

By the time you reach the end of the book, you know something more about the Halakkis, the Kanjars, the Kurumbas, the Marias, the Khasis and the Konyaks. And wonder whether they have lost their heritage or are we, the so-called modern denizens of this world, the real losers.

The author injects charm and pathos into each story.

A Common thread which runs through all stories is how the tribals take only that much from the forest, as is required for survival and don’t exploit it for greed.

I must thank the author, Nidhi Dugar Kundalia, for staying in their midst for a long time and documenting a vanishing way of life, weaving charming stories and enriching us, the lay readers.

Yatindra Tawde

 

book review, humour

Vellagiri on FB – A book review

Book title – Vellagiri on FB

Author – Krishnan Seshan Iyer
Publisher – StoryMirror Infotech Pvt. LTD.
No. Of pages – 150

‘Expect the unexpected’ when you pick up this book because it is unlike any other. There are no short stories, it is not a novel nor is it a serious commentary. Instead it’s ‘Vellagiri’.

Now what is ‘Vellagiri’ someone may ask. It is a totally Mumbai lingo which the author has used so innovatively in his book title. ‘Vella’ comes from ‘Velle’ which is used for people wasting time, doing nothing. So, ‘Vellagiri’ is a tongue in cheek reference to the author sharing his treasure trove of quotable quotes on FB to the benefit of his immense friend circle. And now we, the mango people, can equally enjoy the fun.

Now, why do I say it is a treasure trove of quotable quotes? Well, for that, open this book and start reading.

Whoever said only famous personalities are capable of quotable quotes have not met the author, Krishnan Seshan Iyer. His quotes arise from his intrinsic scathing sense of humour and a sharp mind honed over the years in the Corporate law field. He is blessed with an ability to critique and capable of giving ‘Jor ka jhatka, dheere se…’ and sometimes not so ‘dheere se’ at all. You may not necessarily agree with him, but please do enjoy the sarcastic humour while you are at it.

And for those who cannot do without FB, here’s a quotable quote from the book, ‘I just realized that MZ is my wife – keeps reminding me of things I said a few years back!’

So guys and gals, go for this book. Let me assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

Yatindra Tawde

book review

A Book review : Tea with a drop of honey

Book title : Tea with a drop of honey by The Hive

An anthology of short stories

Author – various

Tea with a drop of honey is an anthology of short stories by 28 different authors so you can be assured about the variety on offer. As is the wont for The Hive, this anthology gets a smashing foreword by Aparna Vedapuri Singh, Founder & CEO, Women’s Web.

The anthology opens with a beautiful love story, Not so Parsi Love, a story of love overcoming the religious divide.

Coming to my most favourite story in this anthology, The Heimlich Manoeuvre, I loved how the author has woven a humorous situation around the national lockdown.

Another story which stayed with me is My Big Fat Punjabi Divorce, a tale of a Punjabi family putting aside their petty differences and supporting their daughter/sister. I wouldn’t want to reveal more, do read the story…

To Sculpt a dream is a story which took me back in history and the setting is magical, with a profound message hidden in it.

  Cup of Tea for the Misfit Two beautifully weaves a fairy tale-like love story around the title of the book and was entertaining.

Much Ado about nothing is an audacious and hilarious prequel to a very famous love story,by the author and she succeeds in entertaining the readers.

Raz’on de Ser is a surefire tearjerker of a love story which tugs at the heartstrings.

Table number 9 is as philosophical as they come, with some great quotes. 

The Murphy Conundrum surprised me with a mixture of genres and leaves you with a feel good feeling at the end.

The other stories are entertaining too and you must read Tea with a drop of honey to know still more hidden gems.

Yatindra Tawde

book review

The Vedas and Upanishads for children – A book review

Book title : The Vedas and Upanishads for children

Author : Roopa Pai

Publisher: Hachette Book Publishing India Pvt. Ltd.

No. of pages: 410

Let there be no doubt about it, The Vedas and Upanishads are no simple subjects that anyone and everyone can attempt writing about them. First of all, they are so ancient; second, they are originally written in the ancient language of the Indian subcontinent, Sanskrit. This language has very few current aficionados. Third, there are quite a few translations available, from the 19th century to quite recent, where, not everyone has managed to capture the true gist of those great works. 

However the author, Roopa Pai has studied the best among them like the works of Bibek and Dipavali Debroy, Swami Vivekananda, S. Radhakrishnan, Sri M and many others. Please refer to the select bibliography at the end of the book.

Studying is only half the battle won. Interpreting it for the target audience, who are the teenagers, and keeping it interesting enough throughout the entire length of the book is a stupendous achievement. 

And mind you, this book is not only for teenagers, though written in a language they understand. Those who have only a cursory knowledge of the Vedas and Upanishads, like yours truly, will find it equally interesting and wonderous. I mean, those ancient rishis and sages really developed some profound thoughts which acted as guiding principles to innumerable generations. 

Like the author says, there might be parts of the Vedas and Upanishads that you will love and others which you don’t feel comfortable with. Just take from them the useful and illuminating lessons and set the rest aside. Even those ancient sages are not asking you to believe everything they have said but exhorting you to think for yourself.

Speaking for myself, I felt those sages certainly had a scientific bent of mind, the way they thought and tried to unravel answers to some very fundamental questions. They sought to inspire people to seek the truth for themselves. Of course, the science of those times may not have been so advanced (though many would disagree) that few of those ideas would be relevant in today’s age too, but you can’t deny that the methodology they employed is still applicable. You might think I have said something preposterous, but read this book and then form your own opinion.

Hats off to Roopa Pai for attempting to communicate in simple language, the very difficult and sometimes confusing world of the Vedas and Upanishads. She says that the old, old answers of the Upanishads are among the most convincing, for a significant number of people still swear by them. So grab this book to find out more!

Totally recommended.

Yatindra Tawde

book review

A fallen leaf – a book review

Book title – A fallen leaf

An anthology of short stories

Author – various

No. Of pages – 132

A Fallen leaf is a collection of 15 short stories by 15 different writers. True to its title, there are various aspects to each story but all dwelling upon myriad emotions. 

After a fall, whether it is a physical fall or an emotional one, it is the inherent nature of a human being to try and get up and move on. 

The anthology is a combination of stories of hope, of romance, of drama and some comic. Some stories connect with the reader instantly whereas some need time to savour them.

I will start with my favourite one; All for the blossoms by Em Kay which tells the story of a protagonist who spares his valuable time for the most important person in his life and how this gesture enriches both their lives.

A mosaic on the Garden floor by Sharanya Mishra is a story told from the point of view of a fallen maple leaf, as it flies from the life of one family to another, each facing it’s own challenges, some facing them with strength while some breaking down.

Two Pilgrims by Rham Dhel is a thought provoking story of two Pilgrims coming from opposite social background. Read it to savour it’s message of living in tune with nature, of becoming one with it.

Refugee by Kaushik Mujumdar is gut wrenching, highlighting the futility of war where no one is the winner.

Varied Moods, Varied Seasons by Sitharaam Jayakumar is a take on seasons where parallels are drawn with the human life which moves from good times to not so good times and the importance of maintaining sustainable relationships with near and dear ones.

The Mis(fit) by Saravjot Hansrao highlights the importance of having confidence in one’s own abilities irrespective of outward appearances when you are being subjected to body shaming.

Hope by Srikant Singha Ray is a story of overcoming one’s own fears.

The funeral by Nilutpal Gohain, contrary to its title is a comic take on a generally serious situation.

Behind the Bars by Kajal Kapur captures the fatalistic emotional state of life behind bars through the eyes of two inmates.

The other stories in this anthology  are good too and overall the anothology achieves what it set out to do.

The poems composed by Olinda Braganza to introduce each story are an added attraction in, ‘A fallen leaf, for the poetry enthusiasts.

Yatindra Tawde

book review

Tales with a Twist – A book review

Title – Tales with a Twist

An Anthology of short stories

Author – Varadharajan Ramesh

No. Of pages – 64

If you love stories with unexpected twists, look no further. Though this Anthology is the Author’s first published one, you can easily discern that he is no amateur.

There are 17 stories on varied subjects but each story succeeds in its own way, where the ending is quite unexpected though at the same time,  logical. In some of the stories, the twist made me curious to re-read the story and understand how the author has set it up for an unexpected ending. 

I won’t be reviewing each of the 17 stories but some, which made me go, ‘Oh, wow!’

It starts with a bang with ‘Repairing Cushions’ which brings a smile to your face when the reason for having this uncommon title becomes apparent at the end of the story.

‘Innocence’ says many things in so few words and certainly hits the nail on its head. A hard-hitting message there.

‘Dependent’ is a story of many families which shocks you with an unexpected ending.

Then I must mention my most favourite story in this Anthology, ‘The Troubles of Time Travel’ where two gentlemen argue and debate most seriously and scientifically on the possibility of Time Travel only to reveal the most mundane of reasons at the end. I loved the author’s thought process in constructing this story and his very obvious interest in time travel.

‘Good Ol’ Coop’ seems to be one story but when it ends it is a totally different one and gives a stark glimpse into what might happen if the usual human food supply dries up and the drastic solutions a man could think up, to survive.

‘Lonely’ is another story with a science background, this time on the loneliness of space.

‘Ultra’ captures the mindless violence indulged in by sports fans without any thought to the consequences.

All in all, an excellent read.

Yatindra Tawde

book review

Death at midnight – A book review

Book title – Death at midnight

Author – Dr. Manoj Paprikar

Publisher – #ArtoonsInn Room9

No. Of pages – 167

Death at midnight is a medical thriller set in a town near Nashik, Maharashtra. It is a story of a Doctor couple who get caught up in unfortunate circumstances.

Though it starts slowly with the author introducing the various characters, it soon captures your attention as soon as the Doctor decides to take up a difficult pregnancy case even after knowing that the woman has been brought late and time is running out to save both, the mother and child. He takes fast decisions to retrieve the situation after involving the father, but still tragedy strikes.

This unleashes a wave of misfortune on the Doctor couple, when the father’s influential friend indulges in goondaism inside the hospital. During this mayhem the Doctor is grievously injured.

The novel captures today’s trend in india, of patient’s relatives attacking doctors if the treatment doesn’t work and there is loss of life. 

It also captures the media trials where the media usually paints a negative image of the doctors, all in the name of social responsibility but which is nothing but a race for garnering highest TRP’s.

It  brings into focus the Nexus between politicians and media and the extent to which they will go for their mutual benefits. All this at the expense of responsible doctors and the common citizens.

Yes, there are some doctors in the real world who would put their patients life in danger for extra bucks. But which profession doesn’t have black sheep? It does not mean that every doctor is dishonest. In fact, majority of the doctors are very responsible.

The author has written a story of hope which is a recommended read for all doctors as well as the general public to understand such social issues from the doctors point of view. Especially those doctors who sacrifice their personal and family life for their patients heath. 

An apt book to read in these pandemic times, when you see the entire medical world working selflessly and tirelessly, putting their own lives at risk.

Yatindra Tawde