Sunday, November 17, 2013


By Dan Brown

Hardcover, 462 pages
Series: Robert Langdon #4
Published on:  May 14th, 2013
Publisher:  Bantam Press/ Random House
ISBN:  0385537859

Blurb:  In his international blockbusters The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown masterfully fused history, art, codes, and symbols. In this riveting new thriller, Brown returns to his element and has crafted his highest-stakes novel to date.

In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante’s Inferno.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.

In Inferno, the plot starts with our very dear Robert Langdon finding himself in a hospital with a bump on his head and unable to recall where he is or why he’s in Italy- a situation of total amnesia.

I’ve previously read Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol but this is a bit different than that. In Inferno, Dan Brown has made grand references to history,  art, symbols and Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is from  Dante’s work that the book has got its name as Inferno.

For a person who has read previous Robert Langdon books is sure to find this one a peach. Although Dan Brown does not get to make many experiments with his characterizations or plot constructions in his books in this series, the beautiful thing about them is that they sound so different and not monotonous at all. (Btw, the Harris Tweed and the Mickey Mouse watch are to stay.)

You can’t call Dan Brown a writer of classics, so you won’t call Inferno a classic either.   But it does not mean that it makes you lose even a bit on the enjoyment of the book. If you read a Dan Brown book, it is more for a gripping plot and the engaging storyline and maybe to learn something that you’ve never known before. And you pretty much get it in every book of his just as this one. Inferno is yet another one of Brown's page-turners. Being a sucker for short chapters, I loved it. 

A little disappointment for me in the book was a more than lavish description of Italy as a place.

On the whole, the story set in Florence, Istanbul and Venice is superbly constructed. The ending of the book proves that Inferno has enough food for thought. The chief element that makes me love Inferno, as well as The Lost Symbol is the Adrenaline rush that Brown keeps giving his readers. Such fine twists and actions, oh my gosh! You just cannot predict what will happen next.

And Brown, (I want to laugh at it), in Inferno is raising philosophical questions. Can you imagine! No, it is not a turn off, but still, it is too much out of the ordinary.

 This book is a perfect read for the lovers of previous Dan Brown books, lovers of history, particularly that of Europe and the ones who are looking for a full time action filled titillating piece of fiction.

 I am badly looking forward to Tom Hanks carrying out the adventures of Langdon in Europe this time. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fitness on the Go

Fitness on the Go
By Abhishek Sharma

Paperback, 313 pages
Published:  2013
Publisher:  Ebury Press
ISBN:  9788184001792 

Blurb: The anytime, anywhere workout fitness guide for busy people
·         Is your weight under control?
·         Can you climb a few flights of steps quickly without going out of breath?
·         Are you able to concentrate well in your work?
Looking slim isnt the only marker of being fit. Fitness means having stamina and strength, being able to do your everyday tasks better and being calm and focussed. Now celebrity fitness trainer Abhishek Sharma shows you the perfect exercise regime that:
·         Works on both body and mind drawing elements from yoga, martial arts, and athletic workouts
·         Can be done anywhere and without machines and includes a range of exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, skipping and cycling
·         Helps you achieve a focussed mind by teaching breathing and mind centring exercises
·         Is great for people on the move since the emphasis is on using your natural surroundings
·         Is boredom-free as it is utterly versatile and can be changed around constantly
·         Will make you more confident, fearless and is a great self-defence tool
Fun, challenging and flexible, Fitness on the Go has worked for celebrities such as Ranbir Kapoor, Akshay Khanna and Bollywoods fittest heroine, Deepika Padukone. Supplemented with photographs and celebrity secrets, it is the one stop solution for the modern warrior.

After reading plenty of fitness books in the past few months, I finally got my hands on Abhishek Sharma’s Fitness on the Go.  The title seemed quite interesting and with the comments by all the big shot people on the book, I thought to pick it up. I am glad I did.

Abhishek has written this book exclusively for people who have a tight schedule and always use it as an excuse to refrain from exercise on the pretext of not having enough time to join a health club, or a gym, or engage in any regular rigorous physical activity.

Abhishek in his book, unlike a few other books that I have read, doesn’t give us measures to stay fit which are just limited for to carry out by the elites. I liked this approach that the author, who has been training all the loaded and affluent people like Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor since ages, has tried to share his knowledge of fitness with the common man, which anyone can easily apply into their lives.

Though the book primarily is centred around workouts and exercises, it also stresses n various other activities and lifestyle changes. The exercises that have been very clearly and comprehensibly explicated in the book are not just the ones that’d help you reducing flab. Although reducing flab is a part of it, but the exercises simultaneously concentrate on strength, flexibility, stamina, balance, improving posture and meditation.

While many books surprisingly say that Yoga isn’t that great an approach to get fit, Abhishek Sharma lays his focus on the importance of Yoga in the said motive. Also, the book explains the importance and effect of the most underrated of exercises- breathing. It was quite interesting to know that breathing could do wonders to help people stay fit.

Moreover, the author is a great motivator. The motivation filled in the book to lose those extra kilos and stay fit is incredible.

The workout routine of the book seems totally injury free. There isn’t anything maniacal in the book like drawing your legs over your head. The postures, the workouts, each step of each exercise is brilliantly explained, with the additional aid of pictures. Squats, Cardio, Crunches or Yogasanas, the book has it all.

Incidentally, I tried a few aasanas for my backache and they worked like magic!

This book is totally worth the price. It saves up a lot of your time and energy. Not just in one way, but in plenty. If you are thinking of buying it, you definitely should. Thumbs up!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

55: A Novel

55: A Novel
By Chetan Chhatwal

Paperback, 256 pages
Published:  2012
Publisher:  Ebury Press
ISBN:  9788184001792 

 Blurb:  A witty and delightful coming-of-age story about college life
‘Tried to picture myself in a shady second-rate college and realized that even thinking about it was difficult.’
Arjun Singh is a typical South Delhi brat whose biggest worry is securing a much-coveted seat in one of the city’s top colleges. But his ambitious plans come to a screeching halt when he scores a paltry ‘55’ in English in the board exams. Unable to meet the cut-off, Arjun is forced to take admission in a neighbouring second-grade college. Between grappling with his identity as a Sikh and facing repeated misfortunes in love, Arjun’s only solace is his three best friends from school who have also ended up in the same dump. What will happen to his future now? Witty, naughty, and plain irreverent, 55 is a delightful, mad caper about growing up and surviving three tumultuous years in the hallowed corridors of Delhi University.

Arjun Singh is like any other ten plus two pass out in Delhi who wants an admission in the esteemed Delhi Universities top most colleges for his higher studies. Getting a messed up result in his twelfth grade board exams on his strongest subject- English, and unable to get through the process of re-evaluation, Arjun is unable to make it to the hot-shot colleges because of not meeting the cut-offs. But how bad  can the worst experiences of your life be if you have your best mates with you on each step? This is a tale of broken dreams, picking up the pieces and an everlasting friendship.
His worst nightmares come true when he is compelled by the ‘55’ on his report card to join a shady second- rate college of the University.

The cover of the book gets it nice points because it just sums up everything Arjun is. Sleepy-head, lazy, messy,  classy and cool. The merging colors, the turban, the yawn, the goggles and the messy graffiti of ‘55’ makes a perfect blend.

The thing that I best liked about the author was his wit. No matter how the story pulls off, the writing style of Chetan Chhatwal is absolutely awesome. He has tried to make a consistent use of humor throughout the book which totally worth an applause.
55 was the book I wanted to read just after I read its blurb. It seemed to be a gripping story showing the plight of the students who suffer because of the Boards of Education and the typical government system which runs them. I have known many people who have lost huge opportunities because of the errors or biases of the people sitting in those chairs at the Boards. I wanted to read something of them too. I wanted to feel connected. I was sure I would.

The book did show the plight of the students, however, I couldn’t feel connected. Not even a bit. I wish there was more mettle and substance to the book; it would have really been the book that its blurb claimed it to be. The main motive of my reading the book failed. I couldn’t relate to the book. Period.

55 more often than not seemed like a manual to becoming a Sikh guy, going to college. It explains the life of a Surd so much that it could very well be called a guide to becoming one. It irked me like anything. This was not what I wanted to read.

In the initial pages itself, it proves how gross a book can be.  It talked of shit and farts way too much right in the first chapters, quite literally, and made me want to gag. Maybe I should have guessed it by the WC’s shown at the end of each scene.
All that the book was, can be summed up like: It is four boys, one girl. Everyone wants to get laid. And Arjun is the protagonist in love with the girl, which is a one sided affair. There is no solid enough story to the book.

I cannot find a reason enough why anyone should read 55 at all. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Old Man and the Sea

Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway

Paperback, 99 pages
First Published:  1952
Publisher:  Arrow Books
ISBN:  9780099908401

61130Blurb:  Set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana, Hemingway's magnificent fable is the story of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. In a perfectly crafted story, which won for Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man's challenge to the elements in which he lives.

 “I try not to borrow. First you borrow. Then you beg.”

Among the most iconic books written in 20th century, Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea” has a spot of its own. In case you have not been living in a cave since you were born, you’d have heard of its reference somewhere. Published in 1952, The Old Man and the Sea went on to win Pulitzer Prize. It was also cited as the contributing factor to Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel Prize in 1954.

 Santiago, an old veteran fisherman, embarks on a lonesome journey in his skiff to catch a big fish after not catching a single fish for past eighty four days. The book chronicles the struggle of the old man and the marlin in the Gulf Stream. Even with scarcity of basic amenities, Santiago does not let go of the marlin, at the risk of his own life. He does so because he believes in his skills no matter what the other fishermen think of him. The book is the depiction of struggle of man with the nature for his existence.

The writing style of Hemingway is poetic. The scenes are full of imagery. The book contains a lot of monologues, which are masterfully written by the Nobel Laureate. Hemingway is highly economical with his words without leaving any point of the characterization of the old man. Without even ever talking about it, the author depicts the desire of the Old Man to cement his place in the Cuban society and culture. The author also paints the picture of the relation between the young boy, Manolin, and the Old Man. The reader is presented with a vivid picture of their interdependence on each other, even though the young boy’s parents do not let him work with the Old Man.

Although it might take you only a single sitting to read the entire novella, the book will end up giving you enough food for thought that will take a long time digesting. The central theme of the book is man’s capability, strength, bravery and ethics at the time of adversity. Te recurring theme of manhood in Hemingway’s literature is also present in this book. The struggle in the Gulf Stream between the marlin and the old man can also be seen as a metaphor for the adulation, love and respect between two adversaries of equal footing. The turn of the events later on in the book tend to show the ethics of manhood, too.

The book can be summed up as a triumph of an individual. It is the moral code of a life laid bare, where a man has to fight for his even most essential needs.  In modern life we would hardly have to struggle for life’s basic needs against nature like Santiago, but still he teaches us how to accept failure in life, strive alone for our goals with dignity, believe in our capability, and when success comes accept it with humility.

I think every lover of literature should go through this small, yet magnanimous piece of literature. Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea is highly recommended!  

Reviewed by: Shadab Ahmed.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities
By Charles Dickens

Paperback, 382 pages
First Published in:  1854
Publisher:  Bantam Classics
ISBN:  9780553211764 

Blurb:  'Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; -- the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!' 

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.
A masterful pageant of idealism, love, and adventure -- in a Paris bursting with revolutionary frenzy, and a London alive with anxious anticipation -- A Tale of Two Cities is one of Dickens's most energetic and exciting works. 

Doctor Alexander Manette has been captured in the prison of Bastille, before the French Revolution, and has almost lost his senses in the eighteen years of exile from the world beyond his cell. When an old friend and banker, Jarvis Lorry, summons Dr Manette’s daughter, Lucie Manette, on the pretext of settling some issues of the property that her ‘dead’ father has left her, she agrees to meet him in Dover. After circumlocution, Mr Lorry eventually tells Lucie that they are to get her father back from St Antoine in Paris. After hearing the news, Lucie passes out. Soon after, they are on their way to St. Antoine, for the Resurrection of Dr Alexander Manette.

I wasn’t acquainted with Dickens’ writings before I picked up A Tale of Two Cities. Although, I had read David Copperfield as a child, I don’t remember any of it now. Except hating Uriah Heep.

 However, a lover of World history, I loved the way the conditions of both France and England have been portrayed with n number of metaphors. Apart from what I had read in high school, I knew nothing of the French Revolution. But Dickens does not show us just history. He shows us lives of people of the Guillotine. Or even that of people in England. Many say that Dickens relied on Carlyle’s The French Revolution for writing A Tale of Two Cities, which in itself wasn’t very correct in exploring the history of the event. While many say, that Dickens corrected over the facts before writing A Tale of Two Cities. Whatever it is, as Dickens tells me of these lives, I take them as gospel.

The second part of the book was quite a task. I couldn’t take much of Charles Darnay’s courting Lucie, Sydney Carton’s drinking bouts, Dr Mantette’s madness, the blabbering of Miss Pross, the messy hair of Jerry Cruncher, and his wife’s praying against his will. I drudged along as I read each paragraph of the Book Two. I was dreaming of the next book I would read after the torment Dickens was doing on me would be over. God! How I hated the second part of the book. I found it agonizing and tiresome with all the stupid and banal details. If I have forced myself to read a book to the verge of madness, it was A Tale of Two Cities’ Book Two. Had it not been in my literature course, I would have stopped right there and chucked it out of my window.

Had this been my first Dickens’ novel, I think I won’t have picked  him up again. But I read a little of A Christmas Carol, and it was damn hilarious. I don’t know if Dickens tried to show off too much with all the symbolism and metaphors deliberately in A Tale of Two Cities, just to prove something. I didn’t like it much.

The Third part of the book was finally where I picked, I mean, the book picked momentum again. I loved the third part of it. It was all business, and no bullshit; unlike book two. I so want to reveal the plot and say how much I loved every aspect of it. But I know, no spoilers.

However, I love Sydney Carton. Hell with Darnay! Carton is my real hero, and I think everybody who has read the book would fall in love with Sydney Carton. I cannot stop thinking about poor Carton since I finished reading ATOTC.
The Book Three is a heart wrencher. It makes the torment of the rest of the book worthwhile.

However, the recommendation would be that if you haven’t read Dickens before, DO NOT ATTEMPT to read A Tale of Two Cities for the first one of his series of books. I would have said that you shouldn’t read it at all, however, just for the sake of Sydney Carton, I say that you definitely should. 
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