Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: Evading the Shadows

Title: Evading the Shadows
Author: Rajesh M. Iyer
Published: 2016 by Kriscendo Media LLP
Pages: 338
Genre: Spy thriller/Indian mythology
Find it at: Amazon

My Rating: 3/5

Book Blurb
India. Circa 3100 B.C. 

As the thirteenth year of their exile dawns, the Pandavs realise a dangerous game unfolding, with hundreds of Kaurav spies trying to hunt them down by exposing their secret identities. 


Kedipal, one of the Kaurav spies, has stumbled upon a clue that could spell doom for the Pandavs. 
Duryodhan smells blood. It means a world to him; unquestioned domination for thirteen more years. 


Pandavs though aren't completely oblivious to the danger looming large. They know that uncovering their identities means another round of exile, as decided during the game of dice. Will the Pandavs be as lucky as they were in the past? 


Hush! Don't read so loud. Kaurav spies are everywhere. You don't want the Pandavs to get caught, do you? 


Showcasing a little known segment of the much-chronicled epic with taut, edge-of-the-seat narrative, the action-packed spy thriller intends to draw readers into the amazing universe called Mahabharata. 


My Thoughts
Though I've grown up around stories of Indian epics displayed in various forms, especially on TV, I rarely had much interest in them. Part of it was because I found it confusing (so many characters!), and partly because they weren't a part of my family life. When I came across this book, I wondered if my lack of knowledge about the Mahabharata would hamper my understanding of the story. Nevertheless, I was pretty much intrigued reading the blurb, which promised spies and thrill, that too amongst the royals! I have to give credit to this book--it not only simplified my understanding of the basics, but it did so in an interesting and easy way. 

Evading the Shadows is a quick read, despite its length. It is fast-paced, and the story tends to keep you interested. The beginning few pages offer a quick background narrated in story-style, setting the base for the year during which this particular phase of the story is set. The readers are given a glimpse of the Kauravas and the Pandavas' lineage, and their relationships, so that it becomes easy for the uninitiated to understand the dynamics between characters, as their backgrounds are already (and so popularly) set. Narrations include simultaneous present and past scenes, ranging from a few lines to a few pages in length. This style initially made the story a bit confusing, as I didn't know who all the characters were exactly, but it got pretty much clear in the subsequent pages. The story definitely makes you want to keep reading, and I did. I ended up liking the concept, the storyline, the effort and the writer's attempt. The author seems to have good knowledge of the epic (but again, since I'm no expert, I can only judge according to my own limitations). The storytelling and style followed seemed balanced--you had a glimpse of the Pandavas and the Kauravas and their spies simultaneously. There are rarely any dull moments, and readers are taken into the characters' lives and thought processes as they have been depicted in the Mahabharata. 

Throughout the duration of this book being in my "currently reading" phase, I found myself wanting to go back to it, to know where the Pandavas were trying to disguise themselves, and if they were being successful. To know what Duryodhana and his team were up to. To want to see the Pandavas winning the game with elan and little loss. I really liked Draupadi's character: it seemed the most well-formed of the lot. I found it to be a good story. Something that keeps one asking, "What happens next?" There's also light-hearted humour and a good amount of wit.

This book has been attempted really well, but I found the implementation somewhat "unfinished". I wouldn't call it an "amazing" book, because a lot of basics--in storyline, character development, grammar, plot points--were underdeveloped. The book could have been helped with some good editing, especially in terms of grammar. The language used was, again, attempted well. I'm a bit disappointed because I really think the book had potential. Perhaps it would work for a number of readers who care more about the story than all these, but to some like me, these points matter a lot. There were inconsistencies and some points that felt too rushed up or left unexplained. The scenes could have been better described (or even lengthened), and some glimpses into the past could have been avoided. Basically, it looked a bit unfinished, but if you're into mythology and mystery, you could give it a read. It is enjoyable, nevertheless! The language used is good (minus the errors), and it feels like an easy read. Whatever else it did, it has certainly made me curious to read more books based on Indian mythology. Just like I understood Greek mythology more with such books, I realise that exploring the fascinating Indian mythology could be fun!

Recommended for: Indian mythology fans, readers looking for an interesting, quick thriller, fans of mystery stories

Note: This is a requested review. Opinions expressed are personal and honest. 


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Review: The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins
Author: Paula Hawkins
Published: 2015 by Doubleday
Pages: 316
Find it at: Amazon 
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Psychological thriller

My Thoughts!
For a long time, I did not know whether or not I wanted to read this book. When it first became a rage, I did not want to read it. But it became a regular feature in several lists, and I couldn't hold back anymore. Never has a book gone on and off my Amazon cart as many times as this!

Rachel takes the same train every morning to go to London to work. She is familiar with the landscape outside her window. The train often stops at a red signal near a residential street, and Rachel glimpses the lives of people living there... sometimes with painful longing, because she used to live there once. A few houses down from her old house live a beautiful couple who had come to stay there a little while after Rachel had left. She calls them Jess and Jason, and thinks they're lucky to live the kind of life she had dreamed for herself. Until one day, she sees something that disturbs her, something she can't get off her mind.

Almost as soon as you begin reading, you can see that there's something about Rachel that's off the mark. Then you realize that she is an alcoholic. Her muddled mind is a cause of concern not just for her, but also for the reader, because she can be what some people refer to as an 'unreliable narrator'. What are you supposed to believe? Unwittingly, Rachel finds herself entangled in a criminal investigation. She knows what she saw, but her own interpretation of it, combined with her own doubts about her actions, makes it difficult to stay focused on facts alone.

I was hooked onto the book right from the beginning, spending a whole day reading it. That felt nice, especially as it had been quite a while since I'd had that sort of reading engagement. Whatever else it doesn't do, I'd give it a full score for being able to hold my attention throughout. The storyline is fast-paced; you wouldn't find it dull. The book is also about the secrets we all keep. How you cannot really know a person from afar, how there's so much behind closed doors that it becomes essential, and uncomfortable, to go into uncharted territory to really understand what's going on.

It was the writing style where I thought it could have been better. Perhaps it was the same format (first person narration in diary-entry style) for different character narrations, but there seemed a slight lack of distinction among the three different narrating characters. They seemed to have the same voice. And then the characters--I'm not sure I liked any of them. Sure, everyone has problems, and the plot needs people to behave in weird ways to keep up the suspense, but the dumbness and sadist pleasure needs to be controlled somewhere! [Spoiler: I haven't been as frustrated with a character as I have been with Anna, wife of Rachel's ex. For a while in the later half of the book, I thought I'd like to really shake her by the shoulders and shout some sense into her ears.] I also felt that the overall impression of women seemed negative. All the women characters in the book are either weak or unreliable or insecure or dependent on some male. None of them can think for themselves. Not really a good thing to show.

Nevertheless, that's the thing about this book, something I'm having a hard time trying to put into words--No matter how I thought that the writing style was not up to the mark, I still read the book in one sitting. The tight plot was a good idea. I just wish whoever thought of that had also thought of making the characters more interesting. The ending began to feel intriguing, but then it became a mess yet again. I admit to not having guessed the culprit (that could have been because of my general lack of interrogation as a reader), but even then it somehow fell a little flat. 

I would still recommend it to anyone who's looking for a quickie read in the thriller category. Final verdict: A bit overhyped, but can be read if you're craving some quick-paced thriller.

Anyone who's read it too? What do you think about it?


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