Category Archives: hachette india

Dark Things by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

dark-things-by-sukanya-venkatraghavan Title: Dark Things
Author: Sukanya Venkatraghavan
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 978-9350099223
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Pages: 360
Source: Author
Rating: 4 Stars

Not a lot of people write fantasy fiction in the country and that to me was perplexing at one point, till it became clear. A lot of readers don’t read homegrown fantasy fiction. It could work either way, but the point being – there have to be more authors and readers of the so-called Indian fantasy fiction genre only because there is so much to explore, given our rich mythology and stories we have been hearing from our grandmothers on a cold winter’s night. With this thought in mind, I am glad that I got the opportunity to read ‘Dark Things’ by Sukanya Venkatraghavan and also interview her at the Halloween event organized by Books on Toast.

It would be quite safe to say that you wouldn’t have read anything like “Dark Things”. I would also be very candid and say that initially I thought I would not be taken in by a book like this, about Indian demons and monsters, but all it took me was two chapters to be hooked in to the world of Atala, the lives (I think I can say that) of Ardra, Hera and Dwai. Also, at this point, might I add that the book’s plot is inspired by a Keralan temple legend (which again to my mind is innovative and draws from its roots and should be done more often) and also manages to merge with modern times in a rather kick-ass manner.

Now to the plot of the book – Dwai survives a supernatural attack on Earth by Ardra. Ardra’s world is literally thrown into a series of questions and confusion at this incident. I was more clued in to the character of Hera – she is evil and that kinda made me want to know more about her and where she comes from. Everyone loves the hero so to say, but I was more piqued about this anti-hero. She is brazen, wild and doesn’t let emotions get better of her. This is the world of Gandharvas, Apsaras and Yakshis and you need patience to get into it.

I think to a very large extent, the plot being so simple helps reading this book. That way what tends to happen is that you can focus on the characters and what’s going on with them – in the sense a true balance between plot and characterization is struck. There is also a lot of romance in this book but let me also tell you that this is far from the usual paranormal romance. There are more layers to it which only come to light once you are further in the book and have been able to connect one with the other. All said and done, should you read Dark Things? Of course, you should. Should you perhaps pester the writer for a sequel right after finishing it? You bet your ass you must!

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Book Review: The Billionaire’s Apprentice by Anita Raghavan

The-Billionaires-Apprentice-The-Rise-of-the-Indian-American-Elite-and-the-Fall-of-the-Galleon-Hedge-Fund Title: The Billionaire’s Apprentice: The Rise of the Indian-American and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund
Author: Anita Raghavan
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 9789350097366
Genre: Non-Fiction, Business
Pages: 512
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

“The Billionaire’s Apprentice: The Rise of the Indian-American Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund” by Anita Raghavan reads as good as any thriller, so much so, that it actually makes you forget that it is non-fiction and actually happened. The way the story turns out and how it reached its end, is very difficult to write without making it sound boring. Raghavan on the other hand, takes it and turns it to a page-turner. On another level, the story that was on almost everyone’s mouth – the McKinsey and the Galleon Fund connection needed that kind of a voice to tell it intriguingly and with all honesty.

The book isn’t just about the fall of the Galleon Hedge fund or only about Rajat Gupta or Raj Rajaratnam or the insider trading that took place. It is also about South Asians and their will to make it big in the country of dreams – The United States of America. The sub-texts in the book are plenty, and Raghavan sure knows how to string them all together, without letting the main plot fall apart.

Rajaratnam clearly had a lot of connections. It is the way he used them, is what is fascinatingly told through this book. Why did Gupta, who was so revered and well-known, fall into this? Why did his protégé Anil Kumar become a part of this?

Anita’s writing is direct and to the point. The chapters alternate giving a more humane angle to each of the parties involved. She doesn’t glorify them nor does she show them as villains. What she does is some brilliant documentation of events and what led to them being played out. There is no mincing of words or any attempt to hide facts, as the case should be in a book of this nature. Anita does not take sides and yet gives the reader a complete view of things. The cultural conditioning aspects of the scandal are also brought out quite well and with great understanding – maybe that’s why the background of each character had to be told at the beginning of the book in alternating chapters.

“The Billionaire’s Apprentice” brings to light one of the biggest stories of our times in a well-researched manner. Nothing is missed out on. Every significant detail is mentioned and more so what works for the book the most is the humane side of things. A must read even for those who aren’t interested in business and market politics.

Book Review: Sudershan (Chimpanzee) by Rajesh Devraj and Meren Imchen

Title: Sudershan (Chimpanzee)
Author: Rajesh Devraj and Meren Imchen
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 9789350090763
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 124
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

The Indian Graphic Novel has come a long way – from only Sarnath Banerjee ruling the roost at one point, the genre is slowly being added on to by other cartoonists/creators. It is surprising to note how the category is growing day by day and writer by writer. The graphic novel that I just finished reading yesterday was, “Sudershan (Chimpanzee), written by Rajesh Devraj and illustrated by Meren Imchen.

“Sudershan (Chimpanzee)” is as the title suggests, about a chimpanzee. So what makes it any different? What makes it different is that the story is set around B-grade Bollywood film industry, in times when animals were at the center of the story. I definitely remember such movies being released in the 80s, where there was the famous Moti (the dog) or an elephant that would kill the villain or the snake that would feature in every serpent film. That is exactly how the way it was.

The book cleverly tells the tale of a chimpanzee who was once a superstar in the industry and his journey from becoming a superstar to his downfall and what redeems him at the end of it all. I did not find the book extraordinary; however I did laugh in most places and also empathized with Sudershan’s situations – right from becoming popular to becoming nobody. At a point, I also thought that maybe the “chimpanzee” is just a metaphor for human beings caught in their lives; however I don’t think it was intended.

The writing was sparse as it should be in case of graphic novels. The illustrations spoke for most of the book, which I loved the most. They are in black and white and almost roughly done which adds to the element and character of the book. “Sudershan (Chimpanzee)” is almost ironic and at the same time it is a funny read in places. It is not as great as the other graphic novels which I have read in the past, however it is worth a read for its uniqueness of plot and illustrations.

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Book Review: Drop Dead: A Niki Marwah Mystery by Swati Kaushal

Title: Drop Dead: A Niki Marwah Mystery
Author: Swati Kaushal
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 9789350094495
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

I do not read books from the mystery or the thriller genre all that much. It just somehow doesn’t fascinate me – the genre as a whole – so when I do pick up something from it, I expect to be knocked out by the writing or at least be engaged for the time I am reading the book. I picked up, “Drop Dead: A Niki Marwah Mystery” by Swati Kaushal without knowing who Niki Marwah was. This is the first Niki Marwah mystery, who is the Superintendent of Police, Shimla and is out to solve a crime with her team of investigators.

As it happens in all mysteries, there is an apparent murder and there is the uncovering of the crime which is the case in this book as well. The dead body in question: Rak Mehta, the hotshot President and CEO of a super-successful publishing company. The place where the body is found: The foothills of Sonargam (a fictitious place) hills of Himachal Pradesh, midway between Shimla and Kullu. So the scene is set. The clues are found – some relevant, some not so relevant and then begins the search for the criminal. A conference at a luxurious resort, a family, the rivalries, and the beauty of the hills, is what the reader is in for while reading this book. Not to forget Marwah’s intelligence, sense of adventure and eye for details.

I finished the book quickly. It was a mystery after all and demanded that one quick read, which it is. The writing though structured, seemed to be a bit jagged towards the end. It was almost like the author seemed rushed while writing it. Sonargam is described beautifully and in part that is what kept me going in the book. Kaushal’s sense of mystery comes from a traditional place, which I had no problem with. In fact I loved the idyllic setting and the sense of macabre that came with it. The characters were etched well and served their purpose.

Overall, Drop Dead is a breeze of a read and one doesn’t have to ponder so much about it and can finish it in a day. For me it was an average read. I did enjoy it in parts and I like how the Indian Writing in English genre has come of age, extending itself to other plots and places, than just sticking to the idea of how the West views India. A relaxed read for the times when you do not want to read something heavy or taxing. For readers who will enjoy it a lot, there is I am sure a couple of more Marwah mysteries in the line.

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Book Review: The Aryavarta Chronicles: Govinda (Book 1) by Krishna Udayasankar

Title: The Aryavarta Chronicles: Book 1: Govinda
Author: Krishna Udayasankar
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 978-9350094464
Genre: Fiction, Mythology
Pages: 472
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

The fact more or less of the Indian Literary world is this: Authors are getting back to their mythological roots and churning out the so-called, “bestseller of the year”. Everyone seems to be at it, and it does not end at one book. It has to but of course be a trilogy. The Gods would be pleased. Right from Shiva to Vishnu to Brahma to Rama are featured and much ground is covered. What then also tends to happen is that one or more writers often write on similar Gods and similar epics – ranging and sticking only to The Ramayana or The Mahabharata.

Coming to the book I am reviewing – “The Aryavarta Chronicles: Govinda (Book 1)” by Krishna Udayasankar. Going by the title, one can easily predict, the content of the book. The book is but obviously centered on Krishna – one of the many avatars of Lord Vishnu. The story though seems to be predictable, it actually isn’t so. May be that is what makes it different from the others in the running. Having said that, there are times when the interest did not manage to be sustained by the writing.

Now to the plot: We are introduced early on to the Firstborn dynasty of scholar-sages, descendants of Vasishta Varuni, who are also the protectors of the Divine Order on Earth. They are the ones who have been ruling the planet and controlling its working. On the other hand, you have the Agnirasa family of Firewrights, weapon-makers to the kings and master inventors, who have taken the step to defy the Firstborns. This rises to a conflict, leading to the united empire of Aryavarta falling apart. If this was not enough, then one of the Firewrights is dead, and that too a Secret Keeper, killed by a violent hand.

There is an evident bloody conflict. There is only one person who will save them all. That person but of course is Govinda Shauri, a cowherd-turned-prince and now Commander of the armies of Dwarka. The question that arises is that: How will he save Aryavarta? At this point in the book, the characters of the Mahabharata get introduced (they are known earlier on, but the part they will play gets clearer at this stage) and that is how the entire Book 1 gets looped in and reaches its logical end.

The plot did seem a little mundane when I started it, but the minute it picked pace and everything fell in place, it was something else. The characters are well developed and like I said, they make perfect sense at the end and the reasons why they are there in the book. The writing is crisp at times and at others, I thought it was a drag. Having said that, the book is quite charming and the mythology angle to it is superbly done. I for one will wait for the 2nd installment in the series.

Here is a book trailer for you:

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