The Peshwa: War of the Deceivers

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Tell me that a 400+ paged novel about politics, war and strategy will have me rooted to the spot for over 6 hours and I’d probably have laughed in your face. Well, I’d have done exactly that before having read The Peshwa: War of the Deceivers by Ram Sivasankaran. Set against the backdrop of the Mughal Empire and the increasing agitation of the Marathas against the Mughals, this second installment in the Peshwa series begins with a sense of alarm as someone from the royal family meets an unfortunate end. It then picks up the pace, touching upon the conquests of Peshwa Bajirao Bhat as he tries to weed out the Mughals from his homeland. However, a secret group of assassins, known as the Scorpions, continue to pose a serious threat, ravaging villagers and disrupting Rao’s attempts to bring the Emperor to his knees. It falls on him to capture these elusive hitmen before they get to his family and lay waste to the Maratha Empire.

Ram Sivasankaran’s writing equips you with the tools for imagining exactly what he is trying to convey. I was glad to see that it didn’t focus too much on nature imageries, rather chose to spend all its powers of persuasion in delivering crisp scenes, with an equal amount of dialogue and description of the happenings. The cruelty with which the assassins and tyrants dealt a blow to the Marathas and Sikhs is absolutely horrendous. But the author had the good sense to depict it in a subtle manner and not get into the gory details that would’ve been entirely too harsh on young, impressionable minds.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are several words in Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit – all of which have been explained in the glossary. Something that aided in making this book extremely gripping is the fact that each of the chapters (sometimes the subsections too) followed different storylines. So you could be reading about Bajirao or Emperor Muhammad Shah or Kashibai or Nizam Ul Mulk or any of the several other characters that are featured in this adventurous, action-packed story. While the illustrations that intervene the writing are simple, they reinforce what is being told and so were a welcome distraction.

Oscillating between pride at the depicted valor of some heroic historical figures and exhilaration at the pace with which the plot of the novel advanced, I couldn’t believe how genius some of the plot points were. It truly takes a mastermind to weave such intricate designs into a tapestry borrowed from Indian history. Speaking of history, I’m not sure to what extent some aspects of this novel are true and where exactly the author’s imagination steps in to add some seasoning. But collectively, this was such an impactful and awe-inspiring account. I took a peek at the Goodreads page and was so disheartened to see that a third book in the series hasn’t been announced yet. But be sure that the moment it is out in the market, I’m going to bring home a copy. Meanwhile, you should pick up The Peshwa: War of the Deceivers for a gala time. Take my word for it, you won’t be disappointed!

Thank you Writers Melon and Westland Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

★ ★ ★ ★.5

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Book Review — Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Inspired by Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire shows us the plight of a family embroiled in modern day politics and Islamophobia. Isma Pasha has been a second mother to her siblings after the demise of their parents. But her decision to move to America marks the beginning of the disintegration of their family. The twins, Aneeka and Parvaiz, find their paths diverging as he gets roped into joining the Islamic State, while trying to follow in his father’s footsteps. Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018, this novel brings up compelling truths about human vulnerabilities and manipulation.

This was one of those award winning books that I was slightly more hesitant to pick up, because it was apparent that it tackled a serious issue, one that wouldn’t allow for an “enjoyable” reading experience, in a matter of speaking. I couldn’t smile or laugh my way through the 260 pages that it took for the author to convey the story. Once I began reading it, my hesitation proved to have been not baseless. The writing style of the author just wasn’t for me and quite often, I found my attention diverted by the flowery language. A few portions of the book felt draggy and extremely slow. So while the book on the whole wasn’t one of my favorites, I cannot deny the power that the story in itself carries. It depicts to us the gradual process of breaking down someone’s mental faculties to such an extent that they become open to any kind of suggestion. And how easy it is then to channel their inner rage or turmoil into making them do questionable things.

The book is split into different sections, wherein the story is told from the point of view of different characters. I liked that about the novel. Since it is not written from first person perspective of these characters, I didn’t feel one with the book as I usually do in the case of books with such strong themes. But I was so astonished by Parvaiz’s decisions that it pained me to read about him. If I had to pick a part of the book that had been done well, I would choose the section about Parvaiz. What I would commend the author for is taking up such a prevalent topic and spinning a story around it in such a way that you cannot ignore what’s going on in the book. Overall, I would say that this is an integral read because of its premise, but I wasn’t a fan of the writing style.

What do you get out of this book? Insight into how young men and women get persuaded to join terrorist forces and how their families and loved ones get affected by their drastic choice.

Book Review — Jasmine Days by Benyamin

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Jasmine Days tells the story of Sameera as she gets accustomed to living in a Middle Eastern city with her father and relatives. This shift away from home and her new job as an RJ brings her closer to assimilating with people of different backgrounds. Her friendships take on new definition when the city gets torn apart by religious conflicts. In this contemporary fiction, the author draws up a raw and gritty picture of the effects of communal tension and violence.

 

This novel surpassed my expectations and grew on me rather quickly with its unusual style of narrative and the subject matter it dealt with. Politics and religion are not themes that make for an easy read, but Jasmine Days has the power to keep you hooked to its pages. The apprehensions of being an outsider, the inevitable culture shock and the patriarchal notions concerning gender roles are all aspects of the plot seen through Sameera’s perspective. The style of writing in this translated work is crisp and not flowery. Many disjointed events and instances are strung together to form the overall story. There are no chapters, only subheadings within broad sections.

In a way of recounting incidents that gave rise to the growing rivalry between communities, the novel draws your attention towards the Arab Spring. Themes of corruption, religious intolerance, women’s rights and protest culture are explored in this novel. It also addresses the topic of media transparency during conflicts; how people in power become gatekeepers of news. There are a lot of characters in this novel, only a couple of which take precedence over the others. Sameera has firm opinions about what’s right or wrong, she enjoys music and has never really considered what her religious identity might mean on a larger scale. Jasmine Days brings out the jarring truth about revolts; how innocent people have to bear the brunt of the actions of a few. I CANNOT STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS BOOK ENOUGH. Highly recommend reading it!!

What do you get out of it? A moving story about individuals caught in an uprising, not knowing if they are safe within their own homes.

Ratings – 4.25 out of 5 stars

Thank you Juggernaut for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

Book Review — Legends Over Generations by Ashraf Haggag

Legends Over Generations is a nonfiction book that highlights the contributions of various global leaders in fields like art, literature, science, human rights, politics etc. Each chapter is dedicated towards bringing to light basic facts about the life, upbringing, education, career and legacy of these revolutionary personalities.

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I found this book to be extremely insightful. There’s not a lot of information, just the necessary facts about all the individuals. That said, in certain chapters, the narrative was fluid and story like, whereas in some others it felt like a research report because of the chunks of factual information put together paragraph after paragraph. If you want to make the most of this book, then read it slowly, maybe a couple of chapters a day. That way you’ll retain maximum information.

Some interesting additions to each of these chapters were the quotes section and the signature. Looking at the signatures of so many influential people made me feel like I was going through historical documents at a museum. I understand that it’s never easy to compile a list of important historical figures because there are way too many of them, but I wish the author had included a couple of Indians who have been prominent in the arts and literature fields.

My favorite section was the one about human rights activists. If you wish to brush up on some basic G.K, then this a perfect book, give it a try!

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? Basic knowledge about some trailblazers like Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., Ava Gardner and more.

Thank you Blue Rose Publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. 

Book Review — Dreamers by Snigdha Poonam

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Snigdha Poonam’s Dreamers brings to light the struggles and aspirations of the Indian youth. In a society that is brimming with job seekers, the paucity of employment propels these young Indians into doing whatever it takes to make ends meet. Filled with political stances and the desire to break through the gateway of modernism, this book brings to us the stories of individuals who refuse to back down.

When I heard about this book, I had a slightly different picture in mind; one of a dramatized version of what the youth in India are upto, in order to achieve their dreams. As I began reading this book, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to finish it because of the overwhelmingly detailed content. But the more I read, the more I wanted to know about where India was headed, in terms of the mentality of its youth, their actions. The author’s writing style is commendable. She writes very eloquently, in a non-judgmental manner. Themes of religion, bigotry, woman empowerment, violence, technology and modernism are highlighted throughout this tome.

Something that irked me about this book was that I felt it was not really inclusive. In the sense that it doesn’t draw a fair picture of the youth of India. A majority of the stories were about men (I don’t have a problem with men and neither is this about feminism. So don’t misconstrue my words.) and then, none of the stories covered the southern states of India, or even the East. I agree that it must have been extremely difficult to seek out youngsters from different parts of India. But for equal representation, it would have been nice to know about individuals from different backgrounds. Some of the stories and morals that come to our attention when reading this book concerned me a great deal, because it unearthed the face of a highly intolerable and prejudiced future. While it’s important to be aware of that, it doesn’t color my opinion of everyone below the age of 25 years. This book has just equipped me with the affirmation that we are a fierce bunch, ready to do whatever it takes to fulfill our goals. All in all, I would recommend Dreamers to those who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in the subject matter.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An indepth glance at some of the mindsets that are the future of our country.

Thank you Penguin India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review — Aqson Level 1 by Sreejib

Aqson Level 1 is an action packed Indian fantasy fiction that has so many layers to it, it’s a complete feast! God and Lucifer have started a new game, the goal of which is to make their weapon the Prime Minister of India. They launch their angels onto the battlefield to defeat one another and take control of all the weapons that Nature has endowed them with. Toya Mahapatra and her friends were only getting by with their college when an unforeseen incident pulls them into the student politics scene in Kolkata. They soon realize just how influential they have become on a national level. What they fail to realize is that governing humans is but a game to God & Lucifer; unfortunately for them, they’re neck deep in the mess.

FINALLY! An Indian fantasy fiction that has been done right. When I heard about this book, I was extremely enthused at the idea of a fantasy plot being based in India. But this book just blew my expectations away. There’s so much going for it:

  • For gamers – The surface level plot being a video game with maps, rules, opponents, weapons etc. 
  • For fantasy lovers – Mythology, elemental magic, angels.
  • For politically inclined – elections, youth politics, strategising. 
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All of the above are masterfully woven into the multiple plot points that constitute the book. There’s so much more I could list, but I will leave it to you to discover. The author’s writing style is very descriptive, focusing on minute details to give you the complete picture. I liked the fact that some of the speech occurs in Bengali (there’s translation too! so don’t worry about that.) and cultural motifs have been generously sprinkled throughout the novel. In addition to being of fantasy genre, it is also laced with a certain kind of thrill and humor that makes it all the more enjoyable. There were so many mesmerizing moments where I couldn’t believe how intricate and genius the plot points were!! The world building is mind blowing. On the other hand, there were small instances that could have been more convincing. That’s something I felt could have been improved.

Speaking about characters, I downright detested Ollie a.k.a Niyol. He’s a sexist and wouldn’t stop ordering Toya around. The only time I felt remotely proud of him was during a debate (you’ll see what I’m talking about). I was also confused at times by Toya’s personality; she’d have these random outbursts. Arpita and Goenka are the two characters I liked. Arpita is dauntless, open-minded and considerate. Nevertheless, the bond that Toya, Goenka, AJ, Ollie, Rahul and Arpita share is heartwarming to say the least. They are all super protective of each other and find a sense of belonging in their tight knit group, even when things aren’t going right. I would have liked some more scenes with God and Lucifer, the little taste we get in the prologue is just not enough. Overall, I liked this book so so so much. I would recommend it to all of you fiction readers. Just give this one a try, you’ll be left speechless.

Is there a next book? Someone please tell me there’s a second book. I NEED IT ASAP.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A very unique outlook on mythology, astral travel and a refreshing glimpse of what youth could contribute to politics.

Thank you Sreejib for sending me a copy of your book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review — Dangerous Games by Danielle Steel

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review. 

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Alix Phillips has always been a zealous reporter; racing headfirst into the most risky jobs. She cares little for her own safety and so is able to devote her every waking second to the tasks at hand – be it visiting terrorist laden countries or interviewing volatile protest groups. But when she gets neck deep into a political affair that threatens to impact the nation at large, she is forced to reflect on the repercussions of her action. Not only her life, but the lives of people she cares about, is jeopardized as a result of her daring. Danielle Steel’s Dangerous Games, while juxtaposing the ethics of a reporter to that of the corrupt morals of a politician, brings to the limelight the transience of human life.

I was positively intrigued by the synopsis and was even more pleasantly surprised to find that the novel does great justice to it. The theme of politics is explored to a certain extent, but not so much so that it becomes draggy. Alix’s job and her perspective holds the entire story together. Battling the constant odds of surviving, she and Ben make for an excellent duo. It was a matter of time before the inevitable happened. Tony Clark’s mien has been penned down so meticulously that, as a reader, I abhorred him wholeheartedly. I wished that a certain community of people had been represented in a better fashion, as they tend to be naturally compartmentalized as villains. The characterization in the novel is wholesome and somehow, in the span of 300 pages, we are able to see characters grow and flourish.

A predictable plot point, in this novel, is fueled after the climax, which I felt added uniqueness to the structure. Usually with suspense novels, the climax is the absolute ending of the book. Here, Danielle Steel goes on to tie all the loose ends. The way things are delineated in this book makes for an interesting play on concepts. There is very little stereotyping and a larger questioning of the boundaries set by society, with special emphasis on labels, education and societal norms. As the story progresses, we are forced to think about life, priorities and weighing the pros-cons of a predicament. All in all, it was a bountiful experience and I would surely recommend this book to those who enjoy a good suspense.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera

Book Review — This Was A Man by Jeffrey Archer

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Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review 🙂

The final book in the Clifton Chronicles, This Was A Man is a finale like no other. Jeffrey Archer, effortlessly, brings together several generations of the Barringtons and Cliftons; binding them in a stronghold of family, friendship and love. While Emma and Harry Clifton are steadily climbing the ladder of success, knocking off obstacles with a flick of their hand, their granddaughter Jessica gets blinded by a carefree lifestyle, careening into a destructive future. Lady Virginia Fenwick plays the part of a puppeteer in an attempt to stay afloat at the cost of others’ despair.

Brother and sister are pitted against each other in their own battle for justice when Emma and Giles’ views on a bill demand their efforts to be poured into oppositional political parties. Whereas, fate plays its part in the lives of Adriane Sloane, Desmond Mellor and Jim Knowles, as a wicked turn of events has them scurrying to gather support. This last installment, applaudable in every right, is a reminder of the glory of a writer – be that of Jeffrey Archer or Harry Clifton – both of whom, have left a marvelous legacy behind.

Having read the previous book in the series, I was eager to know how everything would be concluded in this one. Even though the book opens with a mystery, I felt that the initial few chapters were a little slow paced and often, I found myself trying to hard to stay tuned to what was going on. I didn’t care much for the politics. But Jeffrey Archer is no ordinary writer. And I was buckled in for a thrilling ride soon after. One of the major brownie points that this novel garners is its characterization. The depth of character is evident as we follow multiple storylines taking place simultaneously. I particularly loved the sections with Jessica Clifton and Lady Virginia, because they were so unpredictable. Samantha Clifton doesn’t have much of a presence in the book, but that is alright.

This novel only gets better and better with each chapter. It engulfs you with myriad emotions at the most unexpected of times. Needless to say, Giles Barrington is a splendid orator. His speeches, his points of debate left me in awe of the power he possess to tide over his audience with mere words. I haven’t read the whole series and yet I was so drawn towards the book, I can’t begin to imagine the state of other Jeffrey Archer fans who have been following the Cliftons from the beginning. The bonds of family and friendship that have been highlighted are beyond commendable. So much so that I wanted to be a part of something as magnanimous. I definitely loved this book a lot more than the previous one. And would encourage you to pick it up, if you haven’t already. It will keep you hooked till the very end and when it does end, you’d be left with a feeling of something great that has washed over you and is now receding. Kudos to Jeffrey Archer! This Was A Man, indeed.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera

Book Review — Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer

Thank you Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book for review 🙂 

Cometh the Hour, being the sixth book in the Clifton Chronicles, juggles the life and times of the Barrington and Clifton families as they undergo the hardships that come with great responsibility. Interspersed with accounts of betrayal, corruption and the fight for justice, we see how the bonds between the two families paves the way for their success regardless of the magnitude of trouble they are facing. Be it Emma Clifton, who finds herself balancing few too many tasks and must decide between jeopardizing her brother’s career or winning a case against her. On the other hand, Sebastion Clifton fights a different battle – one of love – wherein he must draft a plan to rescue his beloved Priya before she is forcefully married off by her parents to another.

While the Cliftons and Barringtons are held up with their own obstacles, Desmond Mellor, Jim Knowles and Adrian Sloane form the villainous trio who repeatedly, undaunted by the power and reach of the two families, take it upon themselves to bring them to ruins. Sir Giles Barrington faces the brunt of a truth revealed in the course of Emma’s case and participates in a rescue mission between countries. Little does he know that this mission threatens his well being more than not. Lastly, Harry Clifton having encountered the great Russion writer and poet Anatoly Babakov in prison perseveres for over a decade to free the writer and spread his work beyond the borders of Russia. Each of the battles fought by the families results in some victories and some losses.

As this was my first Jeffrey Archer book, I knew not what to expect from it. I was extremely relieved when the book started off on a good pace with the case by Lady Virginia against Emma Clifton. The conniving nature of Lady Virginia was evident from the start. But soon after the politics took over and I grew to like the book a little less. It was all too overwhelming and I didn’t quite like the chapters with Emma Clifton in them. However, at any given point in the book, there’s so much going on that you get a wholesome feel. Its not just one story or one trial, but multiple ones that are woven together to create a voluminous chunk of a book.  My favorite sections were the ones with Lady Virginia, Desmond Mellor, Adrian Sloane and Karin Brandt. They were definitely far more gripping than the other chapters and I looked forward to the stories about these. In terms of character development, there were discernible changes in Sebastion and Emma Clifton. I felt that the other characters pretty much remained the same.

The plot was great too but some parts of it were a little dull and not interesting. I took way too much time to read it because at times I felt like I couldn’t go on reading it anymore. I felt that Sebastion and Priya’s relationship was a tad bit too abrupt and forced. It didn’t feel natural. And then introducing Samantha and Jessica felt out of the blue. Many books try to correct the wrongdoings by the villain by also enhancing their personalities. But I quite liked the fact that till the very end Lady Virginia, Adrian Sloane and Desmond Mellor remained the same. Their tactics and manipulation kept the book alive. Jeffrey Archer’s writing is easy to get into and while being informative, it grasps us with the twists and turns. The ending was good, different. I expected the truth about Karin to be revealed openly. This book was enjoyable over all, but I didn’t love it as there was way too much of politics and some parts were too slow.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera

Korean Drama Review — The King 2 Hearts

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The King 2 Hearts is a political drama that brings together the lives of multiple North and South Korean officials who train together to compete as a single unit in the World Officers Championship. Lee Jae Ha is the prince of South Korea, the next in line after his brother to become king and yet is shown as a spoilt brat who cares the least bit about his responsibilities as being a member of the royal family. His arrogance builds a wrong impression in the minds of the North Korean soldiers who are already apprehensive of the treatment they would receive in the hands of the South Koreans. Kim Hang Ah, the leader of the North Korean team, forced to become his roommate during the training, falls for his pranks and ends up getting hurt.

But the tension between the two is unavoidable when they must pretend to get along for the sake of their countries. Soon this tension develops into feelings. And being the crown prince, such matters of heart, were never his to decide. When their family and the public take it upon them to make peace, chaos unfurls. This drama is not only about the two couple who are the faces of manner and respectability for their people, but it also encompasses the meaningful exchanges and stories of others who strive to make a union possible against all odds and terrors.

I was unsure whether I’d truly like this drama or not because I’ve never been too fond or even observant of politics and military matters. But Lee Seung Gi was starring in it and I just couldn’t give it up without a try. Lets just say that despite being a (sort of) typical romance, it was one of the most adorable dramas I’ve seen. Kim Han Ah is so endearing and fierce at the same time. She has never been in a concrete relationship for long and doesn’t understand Lee Jae Ha’s intentions in making a fool of her. Lee Jae Shin is Jae Ha’s sister who is a very grounded, mature character and helps develop his personality to that of a courageous brave man. In fact his entire family plays a very integral role in his character development. At times I felt that the way he is, is a product of the way he has been brought up. So we can’t completely blame him for being childish and evasive.

There’s no denying that Lee Seung Gi is one of the best actors out there. You know he has a very fun loving personality and still he pulls off a serious role really well. Sometimes dramas have a tendency to become too unreal and only-on-tv like. But this show often brought out realistic sentiments and created scenarios that you could believe. Kim Bong Gu, who plays the villain performs brilliantly! Mostly because he is so annoying through out the show that you want to get up and kick him; which only goes to show that he justifies the negative role completely. He is one of those villains who are different, like on a psychotic level. The plot was different which was a plus point. I thoroughly enjoyed this drama. Only drawbacks were that it got very predictable a little too soon. And the lead couple’s “meant to be together” status was very evident from the beginning. It didn’t fool around with your thoughts and build a suspenseful atmosphere (where the romance is concerned). Definitely recommend it to fans of political dramas and otherwise too. Watch it! 😀

Ratings – 8 stars on 10.

Meera