Epic Love Stories by Ashok K Banker

I love retelling of our epics(actually I love reading tales from the epics), so when these books came up for review, I placed a request. And was lucky enough to get selected.

Two of the series of five arrived in the post – Ganga and Shantanu, and Satyavati and Shantanu.

Epic Love Stories (2)Ganga and Shantanu

GangaShantanu

King Mahabhisha, a renowned, and devoted king, enters the heavenly realms due to his devotion and righteous path. One day, all the rajarishis, went to pay homage to Lord Brahma, when King Mahabhisha gets carried away by the sight of Ganga( River Ganga) and ends up being cursed to spend a lifetime as a human.

Around the same time, eight Vasus got a similar punishment for a different crime. Seven of them of them had the lesser punishment of living a year as humans while one of them, had to live a whole lifetime.

The Vasus persuade Ganga to be the person whose womb they are born from. For doing that Ganga has to become Shantanu’s wife, who is none other than King Mahabhisha. Of course, Ganga has other reasons to agree to the Vasus’ request. Ganga and Shantanu meet(arranged cleverly by Ganga),fall madly in love, get married and lived happily together, until the vows that Ganga had extracted out of Shantanu as her condition to get married, come into effect. Conditions that break Shantanu’s heart, but there is nothing he can do, without breaking his promise. And nothing Ganga can do to avoid hurting him. She cannot even explain her actions, as those are the rules. She has to see her love hurt, again and again and do nothing about it. Torn between their word and their love, both Ganga and Shantanu lead a torn existence.

Finally she leaves him,as was ordained, leaving behind a son for him, a son who would go on to make history.

Epic Love Stories (3) Satyavati and Shantanu

SatyavatiShantanu

The story takes off where Ganga and Shantanu leaves us. Shantanu is happy to have his son, Devavrata, with him. Devavrata, is now a fine young man. Ganga had done a wonderful job with him, he is wise, fair and capable. The kingdom is delighted with their young prince.

Despite having his son with him, Shantanu is still pining away for Ganga. Even the people of his land had started to worry about the state of their king.

In this state, Shantanu meets Satyavati a fisherman’s daughter, and falls in love with her. He just knows that this is the woman for him, the person who give him the happiness Ganga couldn’t give him, the joys of living together forever. Excited, he goes to Satyavati’s father to ask her for her hand, when he is dealt a blow which he could never have imagined.

Shantanu feels cheated by fate and is dispirited and sad, when his son Devavrata, takes things into his hands and makes the ultimate sacrifice for his father’s happiness. An unthinkable sacrifice, the sacrifice which made Shantanu and Satyavati’s love possible.

Both of them are stories from Hindu Mythology, retold by the author, with the focus on the love story. I did wish he made it more than just physical attraction, which was how it came across to me. I wish the author had used some of his literary license and added some emotions beyond ‘love at first sight’, some interpretation which would have added to the story, but that’s just me, asking for more!

The books were very quick reads. 80 pages or so long, and very easy and quick to read. The books were fun to read, but probably not something I would buy and read.

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Wrong Means Right End by Varsha Dixit

Blogadda came up with this review just at the time that I was yearning for a book of this sort. After loads of heavy reading, this was fit the bill perfectly.

wrongmeansrightend

Sneha is a hard-working single mom, living in Mumbai with her little son, Advey. Her best friend forever, Nandini, newly married and deliriously happy, is busy trying to arrange blind dates for Sneha. Sneha ends up the guinea pig for Nandini’s experiments in getting her hitched, at almost party that she throws.

Nandini is married to Aditya Sarin, an industrialist, and is currently working in his organisation to find out what works for her. Sneha is busy juggling her career and her son, supported by her help, Amla. Their friendship goes way back, and they have been together through all sorts of trouble. Both of them are very protective towards the other. Now, all that Nandini wants is for her friend to have the same sort of bliss that she shares with Aditya. Sneha’s ordered life goes up in the air when she comes across Nikhil, with whom she shares some unpleasant history. And he doesn’t come alone, he comes with Aditya’s ex-fiancee Gayatri, who, apparently, is still hung up on Aditya.

Before she knows it, Sneha is in the middle of all sorts of chaos. Nandini and Aditya’s marriage seems to be unraveling, Hers and Nandini’s friendship seems to be history, and the only person who can help her is Nikhil. Nikhil who can’t stand her, Nikhil, who, she will do anything to avoid. They need to forget their history and egos, if Nandini and Aditya’s marriage has to be saved. Of course it doesn’t help that Sneha ends up in places where she has no business being, only to add to the complications.

A light and fun read. Perfect if you want to leave your brains behind and read. A Mills and Boon sort of romance, with a few additional twists thrown in. And all that goes with tales of this sort, two people with incredible chemistry, but seem to rub each other the wrong way. Sneha and Nandini’s friendship was something I really enjoyed reading about. That added some freshness to the tale. The twists and turns were, well, predictable, but the book is quick-paced, so you don’t really get bored. The background tale of the antagonism between Sneha and Nikhil was rather tame as well, and in some ways a little disappointing. The descriptions were very stereotyped. I mean, can someone tell me what exactly hooded eyes are? Of course, all the men were gorgeous and super rich. The amount the characters curse, was, a bit of a put off, for me, but then, that’s just probably me.

The one place it was surprisingly not stereotyped was Sneha, with her independence, and her need for speed, was a welcome change from the usual stereotypes. So was Nandini’s expectations from her marriage. It gave the book, the much-needed depth. In fact, I wish the book had explored more of these, it would have been a little more interesting, in my opinion. As such the book has more of the chemistry between Sneha and Nikhil than anything else. Although, It might work well for a younger/different audience, I suppose.

A light, quick read, perfect for a light afternoon read or a holiday read, when all you want is something nice and light.

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The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi


Dr Ravi Mohan Saini, a star professor at the prestigious St Stephen’s College in New Delhi is given a seal by his old friend Anil Varshney for safe keeping. Varshney had told him that it was part of a set of 4, and would sit on a base plate, which he had locked away in a locker. In case anything happened to him, Saini would be contacted as the main signatory. The seal is the key to the secret that Krishna is said to have left for the generations later to decipher and is called the Krishna Key. The other 3 seals are with three other people.

The next thing he knows is that he is implicated in Anil Varshney’s murder. As the last person who saw him alive, and with his fingerprints all over the place, Saini looks set to be convicted. Saini manages to escape with the help of his doctoral student, Priya Ratnani. Saini realizes that he needs to uncover the mystery of the Krishna Key in order to prove that he is not the killer of his friend. As he rushes to the others who have the seal, he finds, to his horror, one by one, they all get killed and he gets even more embroiled in the mess. To add to it, there seems to be a person who believes that he is the tenth avataar of Vishnu – Kalki. Now Saini has to try to stay alive while trying to uncover the Krishna Key. All his expertise in History, Mythology and skill in connecting things, are crucial to his survival. It doesn’t help matters that Radhika(Sniffer) Singh, an ace policewoman, is trying hard to catch him and prosecute him for what she believes is his crime. It’s tough enough to escape her, without having to worry about serial killers who seem to get everywhere.

First Impression – it was pure Dan Brown in genre. Conspiracy theory abounds, linking historical facts and exposing different facts and concepts that make you wonder if everything you knew was actually not true. Fascinating read, in terms of all the revelations. So many revelations that it made my head spin, that it made me google and check it out, just as I did when I read my first Dan Brown. It came with all the twists and turns that one would expect, with trusted people turning rogue and corrupt officials that are willing to do everything for the right price.

The best part of the book were the non-stop revelations. It was a walk through history, of a different kind. Right from prediction of the exact time when the Mahabharata was fought, using the astronomical events that were mentioned in the texts, proving that Krishna was not a mythological character but a real life person, who indeed lived on this earth, linking events till the later parts of Indian history, and even world history and the other religions. It was fascinating, to read all that. At the same time,I think the storyline got kind of muddled, somewhere in the process. In the sense that while all the revelations tied up together, it was just too much of it. By the end, I felt it was more about these startling revelations/conspiracy theory than the actual story line. And the ending, for me, it was quite lame. Disappointing in the way that Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol was.

What really amazes me is the amount of research the author must have done to come up with a book like this. Research as well as a thorough knowledge of the subject that he is writing about. So many things are linked up so well, Mythology, history, possibilities of nuclear technology in the olden days, Chemistry, Symbology, it’s almost never-ending.. Even to do the research, one must have a clear idea about what one is looking for, that I believe is just amazing. And to put it all together in a story, takes talent, and for that, I have immense respect for the author.

While it was a great read, I wish the ending was more powerful. And I wish there was a little less information. I love historical books, but in this one, I felt there was a bit too much information, which after a point, started getting a little boring for me. But then, that’s probably just me. What I loved about the narrative was Krishna’s story that was narrated alongside the happenings in the story. I loved that. It came across really well, added to the flavour of the storytelling. All in all, it is still a book I would recommend. Despite the shortcomings, It’s still an interesting read, but for me, probably a one-time read, yet I would still go ahead and try to read the other books by the author.

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When the Snow Melts by Vinod Joseph

Ritwik is in big trouble. Completely in debt, thanks to gambling and his fondness for Old Monk rum, he is being hounded by loan sharks who are out to get him.

Ritwik Kumar, a veteran spook, had been sent by the Indian Government to the Intelligence Assesment Group (IAG) in London, where intelligence agents from countries all over are fighting the war against terrorism. However, Ritwik is not functioning at his best. His alcoholism has led him into embezzling office funds and taking out loans all over the place. He needs to return the money to his boss, as well as the loan sharks.

The only way Ritwik finds to save himself from both General West(his American boss in the IAG), and the merciless loan sharks is to defect to the Al Qaeda. Of course, things are not as smooth as he would have liked. Not only do his new friends/allies start to doubt him, he also falls in love with one of his new allies Junaid’s wife Nilofer. Nilofer is treated badly by her husband Junaid, a foot soldier of the Al Qaeda who is a complete believer of it’s ideology. Ritwik is affected by Junaid’s treatment of Nilofer. Not that he can do much about it. After all, Ritwik, has other more urgent concerns, like staying alive, chances of which start looking bleaker by the hour.

So what happens next? Does Ritwik come out of all this mess alive? You’ll have to read it to find out.

My verdict. Vinod Joseph’s book is a fast moving thriller which keeps you on your toes. I did have an inkling of what could be the possible outcome, which was indeed true, but despite that, there was one twist at the end which completely took me by surprise. The descriptions of London and Basingstoke had nostalgic value for me, so that was an added bonus. Suspense, torture, international intelligence, fundamentalism, double crossing intelligence agents all made it an interesting read.

Some parts of the book did not sit very well with me, though. There is one particular sequence in the beginning of the book where Ritwik is called ‘the Man’, ‘the Old Monk drinker’ alternatively. It actually got me confused. That might just be me – but I felt that it detracted from the flow of the book, because I had to re-read to figure out what was happening. But then, as I said, that might just be me.

I also found the constant reference to Old Monk, a wee bit annoying. It almost felt like a commercial.

Apart from that, I really enjoyed the book. It was a first time read for me, a thriller by an Indian Author, and I am glad to say that I enjoyed it too. The best part for me, was the fact that it had an Indian angle, of how 9/11 effected Indian intelligence efforts and the power struggle in the subcontinent. As one of the Pakistani diplomats in the book says, all that Pakistan wants is to go back to the pre-9/11 era, when they could use the Taliban to help them in Kashmir. 9/11 brought the Talibans into the US’s focus, and that changed it all. It also gives an insight into lives of intelligence officers and the trials and dangers that they face . Lured by the money(and other considerations), there must be plenty of double agents out there, who have no qualms giving out their nation’s secrets.

I would definitely recommend it to everybody who likes books in this genre.

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