Book review

Keepers of Kalachakra [Book Review]

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Rating: 2/5

Having set a very high bar with his previous works- Chanakya’s Chant, The Krishna’s Key and The Sialkot Saga, popular writer Ashwin Sanghi is back with Keepers of Kalachakra, a grand mixture of History, Mythology and Science (HMS). Dan Brown is the master of this combination and Ashwin Sanghi has tried to pull a Dan Brown here. Was he successful?

Before going into the story, I have to say I was highly excited for this book. One, I love Dan Brown’s works. Two, I love Ashwin Sanghi’s works as well. When the ratings and reviews for this book were very positive, my hopes went up even more high.

Honestly, it was an agonizing experience. 

I feel really frustrated, sad and guilty for not liking this book. I could sense the immense hardwork and effort put in by the author to produce something miraculous. It may be something miraculous for many others, but not for me. From the word go, I couldn’t connect to the story. I couldn’t understand the base plot. To make things worse, every chapter seemed to introduce a character and the number seemed never ending. As I said before, I have read and enjoyed Dan Brown and I know his works had more complex descriptions (which I have skipped at times) compared to Keepers of Kalachakra. But the problem was, in every story using HMS, there is at least one main character who is ignorant about the subjects and the wise character explains the concepts in simple words to him/her. In KoK, every character is a genius and I, who is not very well versed in Science, couldn’t understand head or tail. It was like a school text book where scientists were quoted and experiments were discussed. I wasn’t ready to read the same page twice or thrice. Having said that, I applaud the author for taking so much pain to put everything together. It mustn’t have been easy and I get that.

I don’t know what I can say about the story. I completed the book, but I am still not greatly sure about the plot. So- I’ll leave it there. I am not going into it. It’s just that I am so disappointed for not enjoying this one.


Tell No One [Book Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Tell No One

This phrase appears so many times in the book but at the most appropriate places. Written by Harlan Coben, this story is so intriguing, so thrilling that this is the definition of unputdownable. 

Dr David Beck is still mourning the loss of his wife, Elizabeth. It’s been 8 years. Childhood friends turned lovers turned husband-wife, they were inseparable. One night at their cabin by a lake, their anniversary turns into horror when both of them are attacked with Elizabeth abducted. After 5 days, she is found killed, killed by a serial killer- Killroy. Case is closed but Beck never overcomes the grief. After 8 years, Beck receives an email which cites everything personal to him and Elizabeth making him wonder if Elizabeth was alive. With more emails, he is convinced his wife is alive. Two more bodies are found near the cabin which reopens the case. Beck questions Elizabeth’s father, a cop, about the body he identified and when he stammers, Beck is sure Elizabeth is alive and sets out to find her. Griffin Scope, father of Brandon Scope, sends his hitmen to close all loose ends connecting to the night at the cabin. Why? He wants to avenge his son’s death. Why? During Beck’s quest to find Elizabeth, he nearly gets arrested and later abducted only to be saved by his friends. Who wants to kill him? Same people who attacked him on that night? Why? And why has Elizabeth taken 8 years to contact her husband when she was alive? Elizabeth’s father- he has all the answers. 

This story has to be one of the best I have ever read, story-wise. Seriously. It is filled with mystery, thrill, suspicion and keeps you spinning theories. It’s fast and doesn’t waver from the plot. It has the occasional unnecessary description which I skipped as the story was too intense to waste time on descriptions. Sorry, author. The characters are simple and easy to connect to. You don’t have to turn back pages to understand who is who. The 2nd half of the book is the best. One of the best thrillers I have read in recent times. 

My first Harlan Coben wasn’t impressive, but this one compensates for that. A must read. 

Crooked House [Book Review]

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Rating: 3.5/5

It’s getting increasingly difficult to review Agatha Christie’s works for me nowadays. Not that I am not enjoying reading her book. There is no doubt, she is still one of my favorite authors, and perhaps my all time favorite in the genre of crime. The Queen of Crime. At the same time, I have read so much of her, understood her writing so much that she has become kind of predictable. I felt the same when I used to read Sidney Sheldon. Christie’s works always involve a bunch of people; I should say suspects; a very interesting victim, and an investigator- Poirot, Marple or someone else, having lengthy, multiple but interesting conversations and deducing the killer at the end. 

Inspite of the predictability, I still look forward to read her books. One- it’s always a quick read. Two- her characters are very intriguing. The same applies to Crooked House. This book is one of Christie’s many stand-alone works. Aristride Leonide, the head of the Leonides, gets murdered through poisoning. Naturally, every member of the family becomes a suspect. Charles, who is in love with the granddaughter of Aristride, Sophia, is urged by her to solve the case. What follows is Charles having conversations with various members of the family, putting together a timeline, analysing if there is a motive for anyone to kill Aristride. And like any murder mystery, another murder takes place and the pieces are put together pointing at the killer. I think I should admit, the ending was very poignant. 

I liked certain parts very much. Aristride mentioning at the family meeting that injecting his eyedrops instead of insulin can kill him, and he gets killed the very same way. Josephine, Sophia’s little sister, playing Sherlock Holmes and always being ahead of Charles and the police in the investigation. Doubts falling on almost everyone, including Sophia. The mystery behind the will. All these things got me through the book. But, yes, this wouldn’t fall into my Top 10 Agatha Christie’s books. 

One step closer to reading all AC’s works. That’s all that matters. 


Origin [Book Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Dan Brown is back with another one of his signature history meets science thriller with his prominent central character, Robert Langdon. To be honest, I wasn’t mad about his last work, Inferno, and definitely was hugely disappointed with The Lost Symbol. Yet, I love the way he sets his story, the locations and the treasure hunt kind of plot. Origin is no different. To my relief, I enjoyed the book very much and felt Brown clicked all the boxes with this. 

Origin begins with Edmond Kirch, a prominent computer scientist, in meeting with three important religious leaders, sharing findings of his recent research. The end of the meeting leaves the leaders baffled. To their surprise and fear, Kirch announces to the world that he was about to present certain findings that will change the entire living system. Lavishly planned in an extravagant museum in Spain, Kirch invites several popular dignitaries, including Langdon, and makes full use of technology to reach every corner of the world. With specialized automated guide to every invitee, Robert meets Winston. You just can’t stop loving Winston. I wish I could have one in my life! A disastrous incident at the presentation puts Langdon, and Ambra Vidal, head of the museum in a treasure hunt to find the location of Kirch’s presentation with minimal clues. (Guess what happens to Kirch!) What is Kirch’s findings? Who wanted to sabotage the event and make sure the findings aren’t made public? Does Langdon and Vidal escape safely from the problems at the end? 

Brown’s first sixer is bringing in the most argued topic in the world – Theists Vs Agnostics Vs Atheists. I jumped in joy when this topic was touched. I was highly excited knowing Kirch’s findings revolved on this. But at the end? I was left frustrated and disappointed. For one, the findings were too scientific for my understanding. I didn’t see the point why Kirch didn’t want the leaders to completely know his findings. 

I have always loved Langdon especially when he goes into his historical mode. He is a genius. His interaction with Winston and Vidal were very nicely written. His adventures are getting interesting and dangerous over the years. I wish we could get more into his character. I feel a lot more depth, a personal case, would do great things for the book. 

One of the main reasons I loved this book more than the last two is its pace. The narration was crisper and the story moved at a good speed throughout. The historical description were really interesting and up to the point. It didn’t go beyond unnecessary. I didn’t feel like skipping pages like I did for The Lost Symbol. The number of characters were limited as well which helped in keeping track of every parallel story. But, I wasn’t greatly impressed with the parallel stories. Didn’t make any contribution to the actual story. I liked the mystery behind the anonymous tipper but nothing more.

Looking at Inferno and now Origin, Brown seems to have delved into science more than symbols and history. I really missed Langdon’s decoding and the connections with historical monuments and religion. There were no great revelation moments either. The ending was quite predictable as there weren’t many suspects to look at. I know the review might sound a lot more complaining than appreciating, especially looking at the high rating, but these are just small disappointments of mine which I wish were better executed. 

Origin is a good read- very adventurous. It has very good suspenseful moments and the connection with history and science makes it even more worth reading.


Standing in Another Man’s Grave [Book Review]

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Rating: 3/5

This book is a usual police procedural. I remember having liked the TV version of this series. John Rebus, the central character, is the driving force. What I like the most is that the plot is both character driven and story driven. Standing in Another Man’s Grave works for me because it involves cold cases. I love cold cases as it’s the most difficult ones to solve. The cases would have transferred hands many times, facts distorted and the actual story blurred. 

John Rebus, now retired, haggard as ever, is part of a cold case unit. When he meets Nina Hazzlit, a mother in search of her missing daughter for 15 odd years, someone who brings to notice that few recent missing persons case could be connected to her daughter’s disappearance, Rebus contacts DI Siobhan, his ex colleague and puts forward his theories. Siobhan is initially skeptical as Rebus is someone known for his off the book handling of cases and she is ambitious to climb the career ladder. But considering the seriousness of the cases, both of them get down to working together, Rebus in a civilian consultant capacity. 

The case in itself has a very interesting background especially the fact that a photo was sent from two of the missing girl’s phone to her friends, identical photo. The best part of a police procedural is the gradual progress in solving the cases, overcoming the random obstacles thrown their way. The supporting characters are interesting, but lacked depth. Rebus being friendly with the “bad” guys, his motive behind was a little confusing. May be because I haven’t read any of the previous books, I didn’t get his character then. The Compliance committee being behind Rebus started off interesting but fizzled out at the end. 

I loved 3/4th of the book especially the part where the case gets transferred to another team and bodies being found in a field, etc. I also liked how Nina’s daughter’s case ended. But the last few chapters weren’t gritty enough. The revelation of the kidnapper/murderer wasn’t impressive, and the ending was absolutely bad. There were no big wow moments. This case deserved a better ending. On the whole, it was an engaging read but disappointing at the end.

I have the next Ian Rankin’s book ready on my TBR. I remember watching Resurrection Man and loving it. I hope the next book lives up to my expectation. 


Shadow Princess [Book Review]

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Rating: 5/5


Honest to God, I felt a sad prick on my heart when this book ended. I have always been intrigued by the Mughal era for their flamboyance, architecture and trade and to read how this magnificent era ended was distressing. The first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when uttered “Mughals” is THE Taj Mahal, hands down. This epic monument has over the years become the epitome of love and a popular stature for India. This book, Shadow Princess, the third book in the series, narrates the story of Taj Mahal on one hand, and a beautiful story of Jahanaara, daughter of Mumtaz, who isn’t often remembered for her timely contributions to the running of the governance then, on the other hand.

I was taken by surprise when the author decided to skip a generation and focus on Jahanaara instead of Mumtaz. I felt it was a very risky decision as Jahanaara isn’t very well known. I didn’t know who she was, honestly. But that was what made this book really exciting. The story begins with the death of Mumtaz forcing Jahanaara, the eldest daughter, to take charge of the kingdom from behind the screens. Shah Jahan, consumed by grief is beyond any action. Jahanaara steps into her father’s shoes making important decisions and keeping her siblings under control. Dara and Aurangzeb, at 16 and 12, are already plagued by their dream to succeed their father. Jahanaara sensing this, puts an end to it by nursing her father back to normality. But the thirst to succeed endures for both the brothers.

Even though, essentially, the book is about the succession, the story is primarily focused on Jahanaara’s part in the succession. Her wish is for Dara to succeed, him being the legal heir to the Kingdom. At the same time she could see his inability to get the ministers behind him and also his frequent immature and playful actions. Aurangzeb, on the other hand, has proved his metal as a courageous young man on the battlefield. But his arrogance and impatience scares Jahanaara to support him. Meanwhile, while all her brothers are getting married and having their own family and life, Shah Jahan keeps Jahanaara close to him curbing her from having her own family life. Jahanaara secretly has an affair with one of the Amirs, producing a son at the end, a son whom she couldn’t recognise as her own publicly. The book revolves around Jahanaara’s interesting relationships with her father, sister, and her brothers. I absolutely loved her interaction with Mehrunissa. I almost forgot that Nur Jahan was alive when Shah Jahan took over the rein. I definitely felt Mehrunissa had a stronger personality than Jahanaara’s in those conversations.

We also get a glimpse into how Aurangzeb took over the kingdom, as a result of several ignores and insults, killing his own brothers, just like his father, to capture the throne. But this entire capturing the throne was covered in a matter of few pages which was a little disappointing. It was interesting to read how Jahanaara and Shah Jahan spent nearly 9 years in Aurangzeb’s captivity and those years being one of the best days for them. Even though the first half of the book was running in a continuous timeline, the second half had 8 or 10 years being skipping in between which affected the continuity of the story. I still couldn’t get why Jahanaara hated Aurangzeb in spite of him caring for her illegitimate son. Also, Roshanaara had so little to do in the story. I felt she had a very interesting personality.

Another parallel story running is the construction of the Taj Mahal. The idea behind, the immense amount of hardwork behind and Shah Jahan’s only motivating factor to live. I loved the point made how despite great achievements by Akbar and even Jahangir, Shah Jahan is the most popular Mughal king because of this magnificent monument. The same goes to Mumtaz. Even though, she didn’t live for long and had been the Queen for only a few years, she is the most popular Mughal queen.

I loved the fact that this book was both plot driven and character driven. There were moments I was lost in the world of Mughal architecture wanting to be a part of it. I wish the story hadn’t stopped with Shah Jahan’s death. Jahanaara, after Aurangzeb’s insistence for several years, becomes the head of his zenena after her father’s death. I longed to read her role during Aurangzeb’s rein, her feelings towards her new King. Hence, I felt the ending to be a little weak, left me wanting more. Also, only by reading the Afterword, you seriously get to know the parts that were facts and those that were fiction.

On the whole, it was an amazing experience to read this trilogy. A must read for all the historical fiction fans. And finally, a great book to read after a long time.

The Shadow of the Wind [Book Review]

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Rating: 5/5

Considering my very dismal streak of choosing good books to read this year, The Shadow of the Wind ended my poor reading experience. Written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon in Spanish and English translated by Lucia Graves, this book is unputdownable.

Set in Barcelona, this story is a story within a story. When young Daniel Sempere is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books by his father, he picks The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax as his companion. Extremely intrigued by the story, Daniel sets forth to read more books from the same author but fails to find even one. He also discovers a strange man following him, very similar to one of the evil characters in The Shadow of the Wind, whose mission is to burn all of Carax’s works. Years pass but Daniel couldn’t let go of Carax. He wants to know who he was and what happened to him. Daniel, along with his friend Fermin Torress, sets out following clues and characters, putting pieces of Carax’s life together into a timeline.

It’s absolutely difficult to not give away the entire story. Through Daniel’s investigation, we are let into Carax’s life, which in a way is very similar to Daniel’s himself. Daniel realises that the underlying reason for all the happenings is the love story between Julian and Penelope. He explores Julian’s birth and childhood, his acquaintance with Penelope, his friends at school, his plan to elope with Penelope which failed, his inspiration to write books, etc. There are different versions from different people who were involved in Julian’s life in someway. Ultimately Daniel wants to find what happened to Julian and Penelope at the end. In between all this, we have the tyrannical Inspector Fumero who is behind Fermin, and also hindering their investigation. But why?

While reading, I really began to worry for the characters and that shows the success of this book.  The story is a dramatic one but who doesn’t love drama. Even though Julian Carax isn’t part of the present, the book is all about him. Every character, though there were a little too many, had a very important part to play in the story. They were like the glue which got all the pieces stuck together. You can actually see the entire story through Daniel’s eyes. The one thing which didn’t impress me much was Daniel’s personal story itself. It wasn’t as powerful or interesting as Julian’s. Daniel is adorable for what he sets out to do but he isn’t a very strong protagonist, may be that’s what the sweet part is. I absolutely loved the part where he visits the old house of Penelope’s. Very thrilling sequence. The language is really good for a translation.

The Shadow of the Wind is a wondrous work. A must read!