Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Tale of Two Cities .. By Charles Dickens

This book does not need a review, as it is a Classic! Yet I would like to share my views on this beautifully written story by Dickens that concentrates on the life of the people of Paris and London during the French aristocratic reins leading to the revolution.
It was the best-selling novels of all time and its popularity has remained steady ever since, as one of the best-loved works of Charles Dickens. 
The book is divided into three parts and I would like to reel off a very short summary of it:
Book 1 (Recalled To Life) -
“Recalled To Life” is a coded message given by a train passenger, Mr. Lorry to Lucie, daughter of Dr. Manette to let her know that her father is alive and has been released from Bastille (French Prison). Lorry takes her to her father, who is unable to recognize her but eventually does. She starts to take care of her father and bring him back to London.
Book 2 (The Golden Thread) -
During a trial in the British court, a French immigrant named Charles Darnay is tried for treason against the British Royal Crown, but the key witnesses fail to testify against him because Darnay’s attorney presents a doppelganger of Darnay in the court, Sydney Carton, due to which the testimony against him is discredited and he gets exonerated.
While in Paris, Darnay’s uncle, a much-hated aristocrat, Marquis St. Evrémonde accidently kills a peasant’s child by ordering his driver to recklessly drive his carriage and abuses the peasant by throwing a coin as a compensation towards him. However, the Marquis gets killed in his sleep by the same peasant.
In London, Darnay and Carton both fall in love with Lucie. However, Darnay gets to marry her. On the morning of the marriage, Darnay reveals his real name and family lineage (Relation to the Aristocratic Evrémonde’s family) to Dr. Manette, for whom this is an extremely shocking news, for reasons he does not reveal to his daughter.
After few years, when Lucie and Darnay are happily settled and raising a daughter in London, the storming of Bastille takes place in Paris and throughout the countryside, local officials and other representatives of the aristocracy are dragged from their homes to be killed. Darnay finds a letter from his uncle's servants who has been imprisoned by the revolutionaries, pleading for the Marquis to help secure his release. Without telling his family or revealing his position as the new Marquis, Darnay sets out for Paris.
Book 3 (The Track of a Storm) -
In Paris, Darnay gets arrested for being a French Aristrocrat. 
After few years, Darnay is tried in the presence of his family, who arrives in Paris. Even after Dr. Manette, who is viewed as a hero for his imprisonment in the Bastille, testifies on Darnay's behalf at his trial, he gets arrested again under new charges brought in front of the court, that is the written account of Dr. Manette’s imprisonment at the hands of Darnay's father, which was hidden in his cell and was found while the storming of the Bastille.
The written account of Dr. Manette contains a tragic story of the horrific acts conducted by the Evrémonde brothers and describes how they imprisoned Dr. Manette after he refused their offer of a bribe to keep quiet of what he witnessed. 
Dr. Manette is horrified, but he is not allowed to retract his statement. Darnay is sentenced to be guillotined the next day. However the story concludes, when Sydney Carton sets up a plan to save Darnay and his family by impersonating him in the prison and sacrificing himself in place of Darnay and helping Lucie, whom he truly loved and her family to safely pass out of the country.
In my opinion, it is one of the greatest classics of English literature and I love this story since I first read it and the way he portrayed the barbarism and perverted law of the French Revolution will always stick with me. Every person in the story had a purpose, and Dickens brings it all together beautifully. 
The mention of this book cannot go without Dicken’s famous opening passage that truly describes the drama and the atrocities that the French Revolution brings:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
                                                                              -Charles Dickens
Happy Reading !!!

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Empire of the Moghul # 5 .. The Serpent’s Tooth .. By Alex Rutherford

This is the fifth published version of the Empire of the Moghul sequel and very significant as well because this one features the evergreen era that gave us the symbol of love and loss and wonderment that till date is still the most beautiful monument in the world to look upon. I am of course talking about, the lovable tribute given by the emperor Shah Jahan to his dearest wife - “Taj Mahal”.
As soon as Shah Jahan succeeded as the fifth Moghul Emperor, he started basking in the glory of all the luxuries of his kingdom and happiness of the secured position of his rule, without his half-brothers to fight against him for the throne and his entire family and most importantly his beautiful and caring wife, Mumtaz Mahal, together with him. 
He ordered to make the most beautiful peacock throne for himself for which he himself selected and weighed the most precious gems from his treasure vault. He also was a very generous ruler and tried his best to widen his empire as much as possible. 
But he was also the most unfortunate of all!
Soon after gaining the kingdom, he set forth to capture Deccan from the Maratha rulers and as always his loving wife adamantly refused to be left behind in Agra and ventured with him to stay in the so-called ill-omened fort of Burhanpur while he tries to gain the South-Western Province. However, everything sort of fell apart for Shah Jahan after reaching Burhanpur. The great famine hit India during that time. Not only did his entire kingdom suffer because of lack of food and water. His wife died, giving birth to their daughter Gauharara. After which, he lost interest to all the things that once mattered to him the most, even his children.
He only cared for creating the greatest resting place for his wife, whose last wishes were to be laid to rest under the most beautiful tomb ever constructed in the history of mankind. For which he appointed a Persian, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, as the architect and spent lavishly on the construction of Taj Mahal, which took almost 20 years to get completed, during which time, he himself oversaw the designing of this white marvelous beauty, that till date stands on the banks of Yamuna as a testimony of the Emperor’s love for his wife.
This book also tells us, how after years of trying to hold his life back together, Shah Jahan sort of drifted apart from his children, especially the younger ones. Sensing that he is finally losing his touch, they rebelled against each other for the throne. 
Aurangzeb, the most ambitious of all took over the kingdom, imprisoning his father and declaring himself the sixth Moghul Emperor, whilst his father lived.
It was kind of depressing to read this book because the story of Shah Jahan made me really sad, as to how, disliked by his step-mother, he had to wander around as a nomad while trying to win his father’s affection back. Then when finally he thought that life is kind of stable, he lost his wife, afterward, he lost the closeness with his children as well and finally his throne and then his life.
The narration was, however, no doubt, superb and captivating. 
With this let me bring you very soon, the finale book of this series, “Traitors in the Shadows”.
Till then, Happy Reading!!!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Tuesdays with Morrie .. By Mitch Albom

Not only the one greatest lesson, it teaches you so many valuable things that we as humans usually take for granted. 
This is a short story that tells us about the relationship, Mitch Albom had with his old college professor, who was dying from  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a terminal neurological disease and how Mitch ignored him after graduation, moving on with his life and never looking back to know what happened to his favorite teacher, even though after promising to keep in touch. It tells us about their reunion, how his professor remembered his former pupil despite the lapse of 16 years.
The story continues when Mitch goes to visit his professor every Tuesdays until his professor’s dying day because Tuesdays were the time of the week when they both used to meet during college days to take a walk around the campus or to sit and talk about Mitch’s dreams of being a pianist and about how they also called themselves “Tuesday People”. 
They both talk about acceptance; about fears and about how death can end a life, but never a relationship. There are so many such blessed conversations he has with his teacher that is surely going to move your emotions out of control and will make you think back in time, where you wasted your time, arguing with friends and family members or bitching about people or worrying about meaningless things.
Would like to quote a saying from this book, that touched me more than anything else:
“If you're trying to show off for people at the top, forget it! They will look down at you anyway. And if you're trying to show off for the people at the bottom, forget it! They will only envy you. Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone.”
I recommend you all to read this book, as this is not your average fiction novel but a teaching that will help you think about life and will make you understand that once you learn how to die, you will learn how to live and why do you want to wait till then?
It was a truly enlightening experience and a wonderful example that gives you the ultimate moral of a lifetime.
Happy Reading!!!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Zero Day .. By David Baldacci

As promised, let me bring you another of David Baldacci crime novel review, which is an intense drama mixed with mystery and is the first of John Puller series.

First, let me tell you something about John Puller, our hero of this suspense thriller. He is an ex-military man and has selflessly served his country almost his entire life. Now, however, he has taken up another job with the US military CID commission to fight internal crime, but of greater significance. 

The story starts when he is called upon to investigate the murder of a family of a Colonel in a small coal-city called Drake, West Virginia. Together with a smart local sergeant, Samantha Cole, he is faced with an assignment to probe a staged and well-planned homicide committed by a professional. And it is up to him to find out, why and by whom? His investigation leads him to a much darker and terrible secret that has the power to destruct his country and himself.

I liked this moderately staged dilemma of John Puller much more than was my expectation. However, it has nothing exceptional to offer to you, but if you are a fan of action-packed thrillers with some military mind reading into the criminal’s psychology, you will thoroughly enjoy this.

I would also like to point out the similarities of this book of Baldacci with the John Carr’s Camel club series. This is almost the same without the camel club members to help him. The elite ex-military man, John Puller is on his own but is faced with the same US government departmental politics and the pressure and one’s own conscience to catch the bad guys before it's too late.

Even though I enjoyed it, I was expecting a little more non-cliched thriller with a fast-paced story. However, I liked the fact it has less number of characters than his other books and all of them were likable enough to have a good read. 

Keep watching this space as more exciting stuff is coming soon.

Happy Reading!!!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Empire of the Moghul # 4 .. The Tainted Throne .. By Alex Rutherford

Here comes the review of the fourth book of the Empire of the Moghul chain. I am not going to lie to you guys, I am absolutely loving the series! This is already in my favorites collection and I think I am already living in that era these days. It's kind of hard for me to come back to the reality that seems boring after deep diving into this magnificent period.
This book continues with the story of Jahangir, who after Akbar’s death is proclaimed his successor and is immediately faced with a rebellion from his eldest son Khusron. Although he captures and imprisons his son, he is on a constant lookout for trouble from his other son, Khurram (Later known as Shah Jahan). However, Khurram turns out to be a docile son, ready to accept any responsibility given to him and proves an effective commander during campaigns.
While living and enjoying his life in this new found glory, Jahangir also pursues his love interest from Kabul, the exquisite and brave girl, Mehrunissa, wife of Sher Afgan, a Moghul courtier of Jehangir from Bengal province. After getting her husband killed, he marries her and gives her the title of “Nur Jahan” (Light of the World).
Mehrunissa, however, turns out to be extremely cunning in dealing with stately affairs and always ensures she is benefitted in all the decisions taken by Jehangir. She supports the marriage between Khurram and Arjumand Banu (her niece; who was later known as Mumtaz Mahal) and then deceives both of them, when she feels insecure by the growing bond between father and son and fears that Jehangir might name Khurram his heir and in turn making Arjumand as the Empress, instead of her. So, she manipulates her husband to send Khurram away on an expedition to the south.
In Khurram’s absence, Mehrunnissa becomes an important member of Jahangir's court and wields considerable influence by gathering Jehangir’s favor over his own family. She continuously supplies him wine mixed with opium to befuddle his consciousness and take important court decisions herself on his behalf.  Prince Khurram resents the influence Nur Jahan hold over his father and is angered at having to play second fiddle to her favorite Shahriyar, his half-brother, and her son-in-law.  This fear brings Prince Khurram to rebel against his father with a few supporters of his own and only his wife and children for company and all this follows even more thrilling tale ahead.
I found the fourth book following Jahangir's ascend to the throne, the most interesting story of all, mostly because of Mehrunissa, who was like a soul-mate to Jehangir. And yet, she harbored many ambitions within her and wanted more and more power and was ready to stop at nothing.  
The book is well written and the narrative is fast paced and if you still have not started reading this awesome saga, the time is ripe now. Meanwhile, continuing the tradition, let me bring you the beautiful, yet tragic love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal and the history behind Taj Mahal, in the fifth book “The Serpent’s Tooth” very soon.

Happy Reading!!!

Friday, 2 December 2016

A Clash of Kings ... By George R.R. Martin

Back again with the second installment of A Song of Ice and Fire series, which is all the more fascinating, brutal, bleak and unyielding than the first.
After the death of Robert Baratheon, his son Joffrey proclaims himself the King, while Robert’s brothers, Renly and Stanis Baratheon challenge Joffrey’s claim to the throne, not to mention also against each other and assert themselves to be the true heir.
While in the North, Robb Stark, eldest son of Ned Stark declares himself ‘King of the North’ and wage war against the Lannisters with the support of the kingdoms in the north, the Tullys of Riverrun and Walders of the Twins, while Balon Greyjoy declares himself ‘King of the Iron Islands’ and his son, Theon (Ned Stark’s ward) attacks Winterfell and takes Bran and Rickon (youngest sons of Ned Stark) as captives.
So, in Westeros, while the five kings claiming the Iron Throne are waging war against each other, Tyrion Lannister (By far the most interesting character) becomes the new Hand of the King by planning marriage alliances of his niece and nephew with the two great kingdoms, Highgarden and Dorne, in order to secure King’s Landing and plotting cunningness so uncommon, to make his sister’s life difficult.
If you are wondering what happens to our favorite family, the “Starks”! Be prepared for some bad news because while Ned Stark was beheaded, the others get separated from each other. Robb is busy fighting wars, while his mother acting as his counselor is trying to persuade the Baratheon brothers to support Robb. Arya escapes King’s Landing by impersonating a boy, to take the extremely difficult journey back to the North, whereas Sansa is left behind to bear the torture of Joffrey and his mother. Bran and Rickon are taken captives by Theon. And Jon Snow and the other Black Brothers travel North of the Wall to try and capture the Wildlings.
This book also features Daenerys Targaryen, who travels with the remaining Dothrakis and Jorah Mormont, after the death of her husband and with her three baby dragons to the magic city of Qarth where she faces unknown enemies who are trying to steal her precious dragons from her.
A very beguiling character was also introduced in this book, ie. the Red Woman from Asshai, Melisandre who is the priestess of the Lord of the Light and who sees visions in the fire and predicts future. She assists Stannis Baratheon in his campaign and attributes a very dark nature.
I think this is an acute summary of this enthralling book without giving out the spoilers. It was like the most intoxicating drug to me with the most interesting mythology, culture and history mixed together with all the more fascinating characters. I particularly enjoyed the Battle of the Blackwater Bay with the wildfire and Cersie’s bitch full attitude during the coup.
Again, I want to say that I am stunned at how Martin came up with this overwhelmingly exciting imagination of a story with so many interesting plots that could arouse one’s curiosity of fascination to the point of reverence.
I'd say, go for it! Because you won't regret the 768-page long trek of this wonder.

Happy Reading!!!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Eleventh Commandment .. By Jeffrey Archer

I love reading Jeffrey Archer books. He is the kind of an author who brings us closer to how a politician’s mind works during a crisis and take us through a tingling experience of non-stop action. As a politician, he was one of the notorious minds who experienced almost everything, from bankruptcy to conviction, with subsequent imprisonment. Having encountered the biggest controversies himself and in the midst of this climacteric, I am guessing he was inspired to create such novels. Whatever be the reason, he gave us the extensive collection of adventures to experience our delight of super-thrillers.
This is one such book, that tells us how an agency like CIA in the United States, have the power to bring down the President himself. The story revolves around a CIA agent Conner Fitzgerald, who was assigned a final task of killing a Presidential candidate of Russia, an anarchist, who poses a threat to the US to bring about another Cold War era. But sadly, he is unaware of the fact that this assignment has not come from the President, but the ambitious Director of the agency, Helen Dexter, who is intentionally saving her own skin, by putting him under fire.
What follows is the most exciting political controversy and double-crossing moves between the White House, CIA and Russian Mafya Gangs, with a nasty whiny Russian President, Zerimski, who brings in interesting ploys to bring down the US President’s credibility in his own country.
And by the way, if you are wondering what The Eleventh Commandment means, it was a phrase used by former US President, Ronald Reagan during his 1966 election campaign ie.
"Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."
In this book, it refers to the rule for an assassin, if ever they get caught, they shall not under any circumstances, speak from where he got the order to go for the kill.
Anyway, what an interesting read and that too with a happy ending!  A very well-written espionage thriller drama which is guaranteed to keep you occupied until the end. Hope you guys pick up this fast-paced action soon.

Happy Reading!!!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Hunger Games # 1 .. By Suzanne Collins

This is an epic adventure Sci-Fi series that I am absolutely fond of. I started reading this way back during my college days and was totally thrilled to learn that they are adapting it to a film, which too was very entertaining.
The story revolves around the series' rebel heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, formerly known as North America. In Panem, the “Hunger Games” are an annual event in which young boys and girls fight to death in a televised battle.
This nation consist of a wealthy capitol controlling and dominating 12 other districts and it conducts this event as a punishment for the past rebellion, during which District 13 was destroyed. It selects a boy and a girl each, from the remaining districts through a lottery system and those who are picked must fight to death in a man-made open arena, until one person survives, who will be declared as the winner and be showered with riches. So, basically, the novel deals with the struggle for self-preservation that the poor people of Panem face in their districts and the Hunger Games in which they must participate.  
You will find this book exceptionally exciting and brutally entertaining to read. It consists blood baths, lovers’ quarrels, sacrifices and rebellious game contenders, which is going to keep you way past your bedtime. Trust Me!
You all must have heard many a times, that books are always better to read than watching their corresponding films. However, I am totally gonna disagree with this belief, with respect to this particular book, because they could not have made the film better than it already is. They have totally justified the characters. I mean, who else could have played this role better than Jennifer Lawrence. They have showed each and every incident, character and places of this book in the most appropriate way possible. Especially the arena, which was superbly reincarnated in the movie; it was like reading it all over again.
I personally would like to endorse this book to all the book lovers who likes adventure, action and emotion all at the same time, with a classic sense of entertainment. And I am certainly going to bring the review on its sequel as well. Keep watching this BlogSpace for more.
Happy Reading!!! 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Empire of the Moghul # 3.. Ruler Of The World .. By Alex Rutherford

This is my review on the third book of the Empire of the Moghul Series.
The name of this book itself will give an idea, who the subject is; the ultimate Moghul champion, Akbar! 
At a the age of 12, when his father Humayan died by falling down the stairs in Agra Fort, his mother, Hamida made sure that he succeed his father as the third Mughal Emperor immediately before the enemies snoop in to take away his birthright.
At a very young age itself, he proved his strength by commanding his forces, during which his warriors fought  and won the second battle of Panipat against a Hindu general, Hemu, that gave him a strong foothold in Hindustan.
While growing up, Akbar not only won various battles and conquered a major number of empires in India to his name; he also married Rajput princesses to forge an alliance with significant sovereign states of this country, like Amber, Mewar, Ranthambore etc.
After reading this book, I gathered that Akbar was indeed charismatic, he influenced millions of his subjects, whether be a hindu or a muslim, he regarded all of them with respect. He even introduced a new religion, Din-i-Illahi, a syncretic creed derived from Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity to bring about religious unity.
Even though an illiterate, he loved poetry, sufi songs and he also had a thirst to learn about administration, economics and social norms, using these knowledge to bring about inspiring new policies into his rule, all according to the Ain-i-Akbari (Manuscript of his rule). He was also into architectures and designs. He administered the construction of the great city of Fatehpur Sikri and Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, which are still, regarded for its magnificence and grandeur. 
FatehPur Sikri - Agra

Part of this book also featured the story of Salim, Akbar’s son, which showed his bitter feelings for his father. According to him, Akbar was as ruthless a father to him as was a great ruler. His version of events proved that Akbar tried and failed to acknowledge his son’s abilities to prove himself as a worthy heir. Akbar in fact considered to make his grandson, Khusron (Salim’s eldest son) as his successor, developing ill feelings not only between himself and Salim, but also between his son and grandsons. He particularly showed interest in his third grandson Khurram (Later known as Shah Jahan), taking him away from his birth mother and overseeing his education himself, which all increased Salim’s spite towards Akbar even more.
This book also told us the story about the infamous incident of love between Salim and the beautiful Persian dancer, Anarkali, his father’s favorite concubine, which I found very interesting.
I would say, this series is getting more and more fascinating and I can’t wait to share my views on the next in line “The Tainted Throne”, which I already finished reading a few days ago and will soon be posting my reviews on it.
Till then, if you haven’t already, then please go ahead with this super sequel epic adventurous drama which spills the dirty secrets of Moghuls in detail.
Happy Reading!!!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept .. By Paulo Coelho

It is Coelho’s one of the finest books. It was like reading a holy book in the most poetic version which will move you from the innermost corners of your heart.
The story is about a young woman, Pilar, who meets her childhood sweetheart after a long time, who has now turned to a spiritual teacher and a miracle healer and believes that its God’s wish that granted him this power.
Pilar is very surprised when he reveals his great love for her and is torn between the desire to be finally in a path to achieve true love and the realization that the man she loves is being called upon to choose between her and his spiritual calling. As the suffering lovers travel through sacred sites in the French Pyrenees, the difficult choice they face offers a startling revelation about the divine and the redemptive power of love.
This book is nothing like the gooey love stories that you usually stumble upon. It is a very mature creation of an author whom I generally regard as the one who will leave you stupefied with his flow of words that is always so magical and leaves you all to ponder over your life.
I would like to quote one of the best sayings from this novel:
“Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.”
I am sure, many of the readers will find this book boring, but I guarantee you, if you try to really feel and understand this book, it is going to leave a prominent impact on your way of thinking. 
I will recommend this book to all of you who appreciates the beauty of classic reading and I really consider this book to be one of that kind.

Happy Reading!!!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Stranger In The Mirror...By Sidney Sheldon

One of the very old works of the author, this novel was published in 1976. Lt. Mr. Sidney Sheldon was a kind of a writer who used to create Crime Novels and Thrillers, but this one is neither.
It is a life story of two famous Hollywood stars, Groucho Marx and Erin Fleming, fictitiously represented as Toby Temple and Jill Castle in the book. The story starts with the childhood scenes of both the characters. Toby belonging to a German immigrant middle-class family in the US, whose mother has big dreams for him, encourages him to run away to Hollywood to make it huge. But, as always it was not easy for him at first, but with some help and luck, soon he found his way to success as a famous comedian.
Meanwhile, a Polish immigrant family had a daughter, who was born dead but was alive by some miracle. Because of this trauma, she has constant headaches throughout her life, which her mother, a devoted Catholic, believes a demon has possessed her daughter and wants her to a devoted God-fearing person as well. But, she being extremely beautiful, is socialized with higher society people. After constant insults and insecurities and a heart-broken relationship with a childhood crush, she also leaves for Hollywood to try her luck there.
What follows is the story of how Jill struggles through this toil, how she ends up meeting Toby, how their life follows and ends in an extreme tragedy. It was hard to believe it is a representation of a true story and how much a person can endure throughout their life and still stand up and smile for the sake of the world. 
I found this book engrossing but not the best work of Sidney. It was like sitting through a catastrophe, afraid of letting it go. You hope throughout that it will all end up on a happier note, but no, this book promises you to give the most depressing vibes till the end. It also tells us, how much Hollywood seems flashier from the outside, is that much trashy in the inside.
On that note, I promise to bring my views on other more captivating works of Sidney soon.
Happy Reading!!!