Book Review: The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

The Last AnniversaryThe Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Anniversary is set on a little Australian island called Scribbly Gum Island, where the “Alice and Joe” families are the only ones staying, and ruled by Connie the Matriarch.
Events are set in motion by Connie’s death, which then forces different family members to see their lives for what it is, and then make changes for better or for worse.

There’s Sophie, who is not part of the Family, but is given an unexpected windfall through Connie’s death; Grace, who is battling with inner demons after her first child’s birth; Veronika, ever effervescent, who makes a new discovery about herself; Margie and Laura, sisters, who both forge new identities and remake themselves; and finally, Rose, who decides that she is done with secrets and finds the core of strength in her to forget the past.

The book is an easy read, narrated from various parties points view, but is never difficult to comprehend exactly who is speaking. There is a mystery at the heart of the story, which several try to protect, and others try to bring to the open. There are interesting family dynamics at play, and several new ones introduced towards the end of the story, thus alluding to the continuation of their lives.

Overall I liked the story, and could guess the ‘big’ mystery by the time I reached halfway through the book. I was gratified to know that my guesses were right when I reached the end. I think by then, I was more interested in finding out the fate of the characters than in the actual ‘reveal’. A fun summer read from a great author!

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Book Review: The Birthday List by Devney Perry

The Birthday ListThe Birthday List by Devney Perry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book was an interesting read, but also extremely clichéd. The story is about a young woman widowed after an year of wedded bliss, and who 5 years later embarks on a quest to free herself from her memories and begin life afresh. As a result, she decides to fulfil her husband’s birthday/bucket list which includes activities like sky-diving, martial arts, as well as unconventional ones like swimming in green jello, pulling a fire alarm…well, you get the idea..
As necessary in any story, there is a knight to rescue the damsel in distress, and he makes his appearance quite early, and from there on its quite smooth sailing for the couple. To throw in some mystery, there’s also the question of solving a murder, but that takes a backseat while the couple waddles through their attraction to each other.
The only thing half-interesting in the story were the items in the bucket list, and the final unfolding of the murder mystery.
Its a nice beach or train read, but don’t expect any eye-openers or anything life-changing in the book.

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Book Review: Love, Peace and Happiness


Title: Love, Peace and Happiness

Author: Rituraj Verma

Publisher: Jufic Books

Price: Rs 145


Every person has some aim in life -be it a big house, a car, marriage, education, whatever – but, what is this all in aid of? What is common to all these aims?

The common factor is the end result of all these aims – a sense of satisfaction and contention – resulting in happiness for the individual. And this is exactly the emotion captured by first-time author Rituraj Verma in his book ‘Love, Peace and Happiness’.

The book comprises of a collection of stories about individuals living their lives, meeting the challenges thrown at them on their journey and discovering something new in the process. The book eerily gives you a sense of déjà vu, of either having had to face a similar situation or hearing of the same from someone else.

Also, something different about the book – there are the alternate endings (to the stories) provided at the author’s website. Especially when you are left feeling like “Nah! I didn’t like the way that ended.”, here is a chance for you to make your own ending.

The stories are thought-provoking and leaves the reader squirming in his or her mind – asking – “What would I have done if I were in the place of the protagonist?”. Because, unlike the usual run-of-the-mill fiction, these are about things that could really happen in life, and situations that many of us have faced.

The first story in the collection – ‘A High Like Heaven‘ – is about a couple taking a leisure trip to the hills – but which quickly becomes shrouded in mystery and myths. The husband becomes obsessed with finding a mythical flower, while the wife tries to pull him back from the quest. Finally, what happens when they find the flower is the climax. The story is a parallel to our modern-day – couples who run after money and promotions with no time for the little pleasures offered by life. Sometimes these people find true happiness, but ofttimes, they don’t.

And another interesting aspect of the book is that the characters’ lives are intertwined in the different stories. For instance, the couple in the first story again appear in another one ‘The Practitioner of Austerity’ – which is another reminder to us mortals – that our lives are all intertwined, and none of us can achieve anything by ourselves. We are in the same river, in different boats, all ultimately moving in the same direction as the river. When some boats hit a snag, some may offer to help, while others go forward without a glance. And sometimes there are obstructions in the river which may affect some of the boats, and which are meant to bring out the best and worst in us. A few boats find a way around the obstruction, some may be stuck.

You cannot read the book in one sitting and finish it off. It requires some effort to go through it, and certainly does not make for light reading material. I am generally a person who finishes books quickly,  and don’t like stories requiring heavy introspection. However, the nature of these stories do not become immediately apparent to the reader. And it took me more than 2 weeks to get through the book because as I finished one story after another, I started feeling a real heaviness in my mind, something I don’t fancy.

So, for those of you out there looking for books to entertain you – please stay away from this one. It will do absolutely nothing for your fun-loving nature, and probably will make you miserable.

And those of you into trying to find the meaning of life, this book will be the perfect cup of tea for you.









Book Review: I, Rama – Age of Seers

Title: I, Rama … Age of Seers

Author: Ravi Venu

Publisher: Cratus Media

Price: Rs 225

When I first read the excerpt of the book, it sounded so much like another Immortals of Meluha (of Shiva Trilogy fame) ‘wannabe’. So much so that I decided to give it a try. This is how it goes – “There will be a time when men will fight among themselves in the name of God, when peace will fail; at that time part of me will re-emerge.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? In fact, my first thought was it would be something about Rama reincarnating in the present age.

The story starts with an event in Lanka. Then there is the Author’s Prologue, stating the most unbelievable and fantastic facts about religion, seers (or sages), Gods and even the earth. According to the author, the Sages and Demons are all beings from other planets who decided to settle down in Earth during an Age when man himself was not around. And these sages helped man to evolve and become kings and queens and what-nots. The seers seemed to have total control over everything – meaning they were equal to Gods. And the demons followed the seers to Earth but couldn’t destroy them because they had integrated themselves among earthlings. Sheeeesh! So much for the demons a.k.a. asuras. And both beings travelled light years across galaxies just to reach our measly Earth!

And as for the so-called Gods – they have been depicted as Kings of Constellations. For instance, Shiva is the ‘ruling celestial of the Shiva constellation.’ And human kings need the help of these celestial kings to solve their problems. Shiva uses energy spikes to get the Ganges to flow. I guess you already have an idea of what is to follow in the rest of the book.

In the tale, Rama reminisces his yesteryears to his kids who are about to be crowned as Kings of Ayodhya. The flowery language used in the book makes me gag and want to throw up on the book. Listen to this – ‘I see the river Sarayu. She seems to be wearing a Golden fleece woven from the rays of the evening sun, like a beautiful celestial dancer descended from the heavens….. ‘. Need I go on??? I felt like I was reading a literal translation of the book from an Indian language, and not an English novel. The language used is so unnatural for English, that it grates on your nerves trying to make sense out of it.

There are also various inconsistencies in the story. As far as I know, the Hindu caste system was based on the Manusmriti, and Manu was supposed to be the first King and author of the text. However, in this tale, Sage Vishwamitra was a Kshatriya King even before the time of Manu. What on earth is that supposed to mean if Manu was the one who founded the various castes??

A refreshing aspect of the book is its depiction of Kaikeyi, Rama’s step-mother. In almost all stories I have heard, she is portrayed as the evil one who sent Rama on his 14 year exile. However, here Kaikeyi is pictured as a strong warrior queen who had the foresight to identify Rama as an important person with a special mission in life, and each of her actions are depicted as a way to make that happen.

Another plus point for the book is the number of unheard stories related to the origin and fall of the Sages, and their relation to Rama’s story. Finally the tale ends with Rama, Lakshmana and Sita setting forth on their exile, FINALLY!!

As if the picturesque language and the utterly fantastic stories of sages travelling through space and time weren’t enough, the author seems to love using loooooong words to get a simple point across. Here is an example – “The concentration of my atonement was so intense that the vibrations started to disturb the astral planes…..As my mind woke up to earthly need, I remembered the last humiliation, which was the very purpose of my sacrament.”.  Can you imagine reading something like that and not bursting out laughing? The author seems to be in love with the word ‘celestial’ and throws it about the book carelessly. Every page has the word occurring atleast once, if not more. And the similes used are just out of the world! Here is one – “Her face was full of artful shyness like a stream gently caressing a rock in a flood.” Since when has a flood been gentle, and how can a girl’s shyness be like caressing a  rock? If anyone can make sense out of that sentence, I’d definitely love to hear it.

To me, the book read like a cross between Doctor Who and Repairman Jack, with the stories being neither here nor there. I love both, but this book was just… – well, words fail me.

So far, Rama has just been listening to stories and learning stuff. I dread to think of what is coming up in the proposed two sequels – when Rama actually begins practising all that he has learnt. I bet we will be subjected to a blow-by-blow account of how the arrow traverses across the seas and forests, the number of sparks it emits and so on – just like it is shown on the TV series Ramayana – where they show the path traced by an arrow till it finds its mark. And all in free-flowing, flowery language. I imagine it will go something like this – “Rama retrieved an arrow out of his hay quiver, uttered a few hymns to empower it with special celestial powers guaranteed to humiliate and destroy the perpetrator, and launched it from his bow. The arrow glowed with a  blue light and took on power from the celestial hymns uttered by Rama’s lips and enlightened the entire sea with its glow…..” You get the picture right 🙂 ?

I certainly hope the author won’t subject the readers to any more atrocious writing of this sort in the sequels.

Immortality has a price – the tagline of the book – but reading this was one price I didn’t want to pay.

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