Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar – Review

 

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Author
: Kochery C. Shibu
ISBN: 9385285009
ISBN13: 9789385285004
Edition Language: English
Format: Paperback
Published in: 2015
Publisher: Niyogi Books

A story which smells like earth. Characters who are diverse and authentic. When you read Kochery C. Shibu’s novel Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar, you realise he has that ‘Indianness’ in his writing only a very few Indian English authors could boast about. This is a book which is definitely praiseworthy. There is such authenticity to its characters and situations, everything in it seems so real. The lives of the people who are brought together at the Dhauladhar ranges by fate, and their dreams – some fulfilled, some shattered – are narrated in a very down to earth manner.

The Plot:

Nanda – an engineer from Kerala, Rekha – a doctor and a kathak dancer, and Khusru – a terrorist are brought together at a dam construction site in the Dhauladhar ranges by their fate.  The construction brings about many changes to the village – most of them unwelcome –  which its inhabitants helplessly witness with heavy hearts. Many lives are lost, many dreams shattered.

The Review:

The book goes through the minds of multiple characters, each chapter is dedicated to one. There was some nostalgic element in the way they were narrated as it strongly reminded me of the way a lot of Malayalam books are presented. Each character is backed up with the author’s keen attention to detail, and it has undoubtedly added to their genuineness. He has described the ancient tradition of Kalarippayattu and the technicalities of the construction site so vividly that you have a clear picture painted for you.

The story flows as easy as a river does. There is nothing forced, nothing artificial. There is just the drama of real life. The language used is also simple, which makes it an easy read.

The character diversity is also a commendable aspect in this novel. Since the story is set around a construction site, it goes without saying that the people there would be from widely different backgrounds. They all are described very well, and no two are alike. Most of the characters are given at least some backstory that they seem absolutely palpable.

Now coming to the aspects I didn’t quite like:

The prose could have been better. I felt that there were detailed descriptions which were not really necessary and affected the reading experience. But in the author’s defense, it was made up beautifully by the genuine feel of the story.

There were just too many characters in the story, and a lot of them are forgettable. But there are also certain very well formed characters, with whom you could really connect with. I also felt that some characters didn’t get the importance they deserved, some got way too much.

I couldn’t connect with many of the characters. Rekha and Khusru didn’t manage to impress me – mainly because I could not understand why they did what they did. I felt that a few of the villagers should have gotten a few more pages for their story.

Considering this is the author’s debut book, it makes a very fine read. It has that Indian charm that very few Indian English novels can boast about.
You should definitely pick this book as your next read if you love authentic and simple stories.

PS: Thanking the author Kochery C. Shibu for kindly sending me the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed reading the book, and definitely look forward to more from him

My Rating:

3/5

 

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The ‘Magyk’al Book Covers

On judging an entire series by their covers


When I was at school, each vacation called for a customary visit to my uncles’ and aunts’. It was during one such visit, my aunt gifted me with a copy of Magyk, the first book of a series called Septimus Heap authored by Angie Sage. She got it from a second hand book sale, and its front cover had been ripped of. But it still was the prettiest book in my collection.

Why? Because it was gorgeously illustrated. The typeface was really pretty and went well with the theme of the book and it’s misspelt title. And looking at the back cover, I concluded that it had had a very well designed front cover.

It took me a few years to realise that it was a part of a septology. I searched for the second book in countless bookstores but nobody had it. Back then, internet was a luxury where I lived and online shopping was out of the question. I had to give up my hopes.

I had forgotten all about the series when last year, I found another hard covered copy of Magyk at a second hand book sale near my workplace. I didn’t have to think twice about buying it – the front cover was prettier than I had imagined. I got the second book – Flyte – too from the same sale.

Now I turned to internet for rest of the books in the series. All of them were available in Amazon. But their cover design was very different from the ones I owned and I didn’t quite like it. I decided not to spend money on them. After all, the covers had a great part to play in my love affair with the series.

Last month, I got the next four books with matching covers from Amazon itself. I still have to get the last book, and I am patiently waiting for Amazon to stock it up.

Do not judge a book by it’s cover they say. But here I am, judging an entire series. And I am not ashamed of it, not even a little bit. These pretty covers make me happy and that is enough for me.

Do you have books in your bookshelf which got there just because they have gorgeous covers? Come on, I know I am not alone in this!

The Dan Brown Pandemonium

The ups and downs of my dates with Dan Brown books

A decade back, Dan Brown stirred up quite a bit of controversy with his then newly released novel, ‘The Da Vinci Code’. Many called out for a ban on the book which supposedly had an unholy combination of fact and fiction, and it made a lot of noise even in my little state.

The result? The book didn’t get a ban. Instead, it benefitted from all the controversies and sold like delicious hot chocolate cookies. Even those who had no interest in fiction knew who Dan Brown was, and what his book was titled.

I was at school while all this happened, and couldn’t really afford to buy a copy. I looked out for it in libraries, but their copies were always issued out. As the controversies cooled down, I too forgot about the book.

It wasn’t until years later, during my freshman year in college, I found the book. I had only taken a couple of non academic books with me to the hostel and the supply was soon exhausted. I began to ask around for interesting reads and someone was kind enough to lend me their copy of The Da Vinci Code. 

To say that I devoured the book would be an understatement. It was nothing like I had read before. Along with the captivating plot, there were a lot of verifiable and interesting facts in the book. Somewhere among the first chapters, Dan Brown talked about the golden number Phi. I took a measurement tape and calculated the ratio of my forearm to my hand. It was Phi. I was sold.

When I got Angels and Demons from another friend a few months later, Da Vinci Code took a backseat in my list of favourites. I found the plot much more intriguing, and was the best thriller I had read till then.

A few years later, I had just started out on my new job in a new city. One day while cleaning the apartment I found two more Dan Browns in my roommate’s shelf – The Digital Fortress and The Deception Point. I couldn’t be more excited. What I felt was nothing less than the joy of unexpectedly meeting long lost friends.

But that joy was short-lived. The Digital Fortress was what I read first, and it was a clean thriller alright. But it didn’t live upto the expectations Brown had set after my first two dates with him. The Deception Point disappointed me even more as it’s storyline was ridiculously similar to The Digital Fortress, just the characters and the story setting changed.

I have not read any other book from Brown after that. The Lost Symbol awaits me in my Kindle, but I am not in any hurry. I just hope that when I finally read it, it would nullify my disappointments.

Lisbeth Salander – From The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

On why I loved Lisbeth Salander and then began to hate her

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Lisbeth came to me on a time when my reading life seriously lacked strong female protagonists. I had a fair understanding of her even before the read, as I had watched the Swedish movie and loved it – and that obviously was one of the biggest reasons why I picked the book up.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the Lisbeth of the movie was nothing but a weak shadow of the Lisbeth of the book. That happens often with movies as they only convey a fraction of what has been written. It only added to my delight that Lisbeth was much more than what I thought her to be.

Independent, strong willed, reckless, intelligent – there are many adjectives which qualify the Millennium heroine. But what attracted me to her the most is that she has her flaws, and she isn’t desparate to hide them. The abuses she suffered have only given her enough and more strength to fight back, teach a lesson or two to those who tried to hurt her.

Lisbeth has photographic memory and hacking skills that only a few could match. She mercilessly outshines the male protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist. Though he too is a character who demands attention, it’s Lisbeth who steals the show in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

As I moved on the next two books of the series, I sensed that I wasn’t enjoying them as much as the first one. It didn’t take much longer for me to figure out why – Lisbeth was changing. She was being more and more of a super hero, and aided with a considerable amount of luck, she was becoming unstoppable. And I found myself liking her lesser and lesser with each page I turned.

You see, the difference in her character is evident in the titles of the books in the series. When the girl with the Dragon Tattoo slowly became the girl who played with fire and the girl who kicked the hornet’s nest, the superwoman aura around her grew so much that she was barely visible in its brightness.

I know there are more books in the series written after the unfortunate demise of Steig Larsson, but for me it ended with him. There is still a bit of Lisbeth Salander that I love, and I am not letting the sequels take that away from me.

The dangerous magic of ‘The Language of Thorns’

When the book is as beautiful as its cover.

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Illustrator: Sarah Kipin
ISBN: 978-1-5101-0451-8
Edition Language: English
Format: Paperback
Published in: 2017
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
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Do you judge a book by it’s cover? A well designed cover always attracts my attention and if it has got some good reviews too, I am sold.

The Language of Thorns got my eye with its pretty cover. I was but a bit hesitant to buy it as it was priced a bit more than my usual purchases. As I was struggling to decide whether or not to buy the book, one of my kind friends lent me her copy. I will be eternally grateful to her, as it was one of the best books I read last year.

The Plot

The Language of Thorns is a collection of six stories from Grishaverse, a fictitious universe that Leigh Bardugo has built for her novels. These are not your usual fairytales in which everything goes perfectly fine in the end – quite the contrary. The magic in them is dark and powerful. The sweetest person you meet is also the most cruel and wicked. The one you thought would play the villain could as well be the hero. Nothing is as it seems to be in these stories, and that is what make them memorable reads.

The Review

Leigh Bardugo with her pen and Sarah Kipin with her brush have worked their magic on me. The next thing I noticed after the gorgeous cover were the pretty illustrations on almost every page -and they complement and complete the stories to perfection.

There was never a dull moment in any of these six stories. Each took me away with surprise, made me cringe and added a bit to my wisdom. With six little stories, this book had left me with more thoughts and feelings than most full length novels do.

Each character was developed with utmost care, and villain or hero – each has their own flaws and perfections. That ofcourse is a hard quality that you could find in an average fairytale -but this, my friend, is no average fairytale.

I am all praises for this book, I have no flaws to pick. Bardugo has found the right mixture of sweet and cunning, wicked and wise, lies and truth – and they are brilliantly poured on the the stories. I haven’t read anything else from her, and I simply cannot wait to dwelve in to more of her works. This is definitely one of my best reads in 2017.

 The Rating

5/5

As 2018 Dawns…

A new beginning for a new year

I am guilty of starting the blog and not being active on it. This had happened with me many times, and each time, I promise myself I will post regularly, and then I usually forget that promise.

Well, let’s see how 2018 can help.

I have been posting in Bookstagram eachday for almost two months now. So I have decided to share my Bookstagram posts on my blog as well. I think it might be a great idea as:

  • I would have some content to post regularly.
  • I could share all the thoughts I have about the book without worrying that my Instagram caption is too long.

So, here is the first photo I have shared in Bookstagram this year.

I got this pretty book from a second hand book sale. I have wanted to read Matilda for years, and even though I have the book with me now, I am yet to start reading it.

 I hope 2018 will be kind to me and would give me enough time to read all the books in my TBR pile. But I know that’s a lot to ask from just 365 days.

Wish you a very Happy New Year!

The Bear and the Nightingale – A Review

My views on Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden
ISBN: 178503104X
Edition Language: English
Format: Kindle edition
Published in: 2017

When I picked up The Bear and the Nightingale, I didn’t set my bar too high. I expected a cliche’d Disney-like fairy tale and nothing more. A few pages deep and I realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Be warned. This is not a story for the light hearted. It has misery, pain, evil and death in it. But there is also enough magic in it which could make you fall in love.

The Plot

Marina, the wife of Lord Pyotr – a boyar of a small village near deep woods of Russia- is pregnant with her fifth child. Though the husband and the house maid Dunya are concerned about Marina’s frailness, she is determined to see the child born. Marina believes that baby would be a girl and would possess qualities of her mother, who was a wildling witch.

Soon after childbirth, Marina dies as her family dreaded. The child – Vasya, is indeed a girl who has inherited her grandmother’s magical powers.

Her village slowly steps into poverty and despair, as a new priest takes over their church and urges the villagers to denounce the old Gods and embrace a new one. Vasya struggles to keep the old Gods pleased, but the villagers are scared of her powers and suspects her to be an evil witch. The story advances with Vasya’s battles against the peril that is slowly tightening its grip over the village.

The Review

I categorise good books into three : The ones which have a great story that we almost don’t notice the sloppy writing, the ones where a trivial or ordinary tale is craftily disguised with extra-ordinary narratives, and the ones which could sweep you off your feet with their sensational story and remarkable writing style. The Bear and the Nightingale arguably falls into the third category.

Arden has craftily blended a lot of emotions to her ink so well while writing this book. One could feel the pain, despair, hope and happiness in the lines as if they were one’s own. The author also presents the perils of social issues like gender inequality and blind faith in religion, all without coming off as too whimpering. The choice of the backdrop to the story, medieval Russia is impeccable, and adds a certain historic value to the tale.

Having said all that, there are a few things which I noticed as the weak points of the plot.

For instance, there were characters who were packed off to distant lands at the beginning of the story. Though it would seem like they would have some important role in the tale at some point later, they never reappeared. After finishing the book, I couldn’t help but wonder about their purposes.

It is also a little bit weedy that the flaws of Vasya and the vitues of her stepmother Anna are almost never mentioned. But that is something to be expected of most fairy tales.

Katherine Arden with her enchanting prose has made her way to my list of Authors to watch out for. I am looking forward to read more from her, and hope that they would mesmerize me just like this one did.

My Rating

4/5