Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Carrie By Stephen King

Carrie
By Stephen King
Category: fiction: horor
Age: 12+
Reviewed by: Anvita
Buy from: Amazon IN, Amazon US

One of Stephen King’s earlier novels, this book explores the world of a bullied girl, Carrie, with a maniacal mother, and of the wondrous power of telekinesis which Carrie possesses, that does such horrible things. Carrie is teased at every stage of her life and is beaten up by her mother all the time. When Tommy Ross invites her to the prom ball, Chris, one of Carrie’s bullies along with her boyfriend Billy Nolan plan up a horrible night for Carrie. Forced, Carrie uses her powers that lead to terrible consequences. This was one of the first horror books that I have read, and I quiet enjoyed it because it wasn’t actually as scary as it was interesting. The reason I liked the book was how Stephen King built the plot up, and the techniques he used to make the whole story of Carrie believable, as if Carrie was a real-life character. He describes the mentality of every single character helping us understand why someone was evil and why someone was not. He has also used fake newspaper article snippets on Carrie’s problems, and has also created a fake autobiography written by Sue Snell, one of Carrie’s classmates. This makes the story very credible, as Stephen King also includes science articles that show how someone can have telekinesis.
© 2018, Anvita Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Last Ghost: A Belladonna Johnson Adventure by Helen Stringer

The Last Ghost: A Belladonna Johnson Adventure (Belladonna Johnson Mystery)
by Helen Stringer
Category: fiction: fantasy, horror
Age: 12+
Reviewed by: Anvita
Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN

This is one of the books in the Belladonna Johnson series, which is written by Helen Stringer. It revolves around a girl named Belladonna Johnson who has the power to talk to ghosts. One day, all the ghosts slowly start to vanish, and that includes her dead parents, whose absence she never felt because she would talk to their ghosts. With the help of Steve, her friend, Belladonna has to find where all the ghosts are disappearing. Before her father disappears, he warns her that the doors are closing, leaving Belladonna puzzled. Which doors? Where are the ghosts going to? I thought that this book was full of mystery and adventure, and a lot of humour. Helen Stringer made you wonder where the ghosts could have gone at every step, and also introduced a new plot in the book adding more excitement and making you want to read the next book to find out what happens. She introduced a whole new story once the ghosts started disappearing which is what actually drew me to the book.

 © 2018, Anvita Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl
by Eoin Colfer
category: fantasy, Science-fiction
Age: 9-12+years
Reviewed by: Anvita
Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN

Most people must have heard of this series, and I have to admit I hadn’t read it until late. I went to this bookstore called ‘Blossom’ on Church Street and bought the first book of the Artemis Fowl series to see what the speciality of the book was. Believe me, this series of books are mind-blowing. Artemis Fowl, a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind, discovers the world of the People, basically the world of pixies, elves, dwarfs, goblins, centaurs and much more. He wants to steal some of the gold that the People possess. In order to do this, he first convinces an ailing sprite to lend him the copy of the Book, the only text that contained all the rules that the People would abide by. He then kidnaps Captain Holly Short, a fairy who works as a captain at LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Recon) and asks for a huge ransom. The People decide to set off a bio bomb once they run out of all options. A bio bomb is a bomb that destroys any form of living tissue in the place where it has been set up, leaving the rest the way it was. How will Artemis escape the bio bomb, and also secure the gold he wants? This book has been able to describe the magical world effortlessly without making things too complicated or confusing.

Unlike most books about magic that I have read, these books slowly introduce facts about magic that need to be known to the reader. The plot never lags or gets boring. There is a twist at every turn, yet there aren’t too many - just enough to keep the story interesting. There is a lot of suspense and the reader can’t stop anticipating what would happen next.

© 2018, Anvita Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Time Riders - Book 1 By Alex Scarrow

Time Riders - Book 1
By Alex Scarrow
category: fantasy, crime, thriller, science-fiction
Age: 12-16 years
Reviewed by: Anvita
Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN

This book is a science fiction books series written by Alex Scarrow. It talks about a group called ‘The Agency’, whose main goal is to prevent people from meddling with the past to change the future. Three people, Liam, Maddy and Sal, who should have been dead, have been given the chance to join ‘The Agency’ and get to live life in secret. Foster, an old man who recruited them helps them run the agency. They work with the help of cyborgs, robots who can imitate human emotions. Their first mission is when a man called Kramer goes back to the time of Adolf Hitler and changes the past so that Hitler wins the world war. This results in a huge time wave. They now live in a place which is rigidly structured and the whole of New York city is bleak and grey. Liam and the cyborg Bob must go back in time to prevent Kramer from changing the past. Later Maddy, Sal and Foster find out that all their engines have shut down, and they need diesel to run them again. Meanwhile, another time wave strikes that ends up killing all life on earth and mutant cannibal creatures now live on Earth. How will the three bring back Bob and Liam without their engines working?

This series is very fascinating, as the part about time travel and the machines used is explained very well. The technique using which the three handle the problems with the help of Bob, their support unit, is truly unique, and none of the stories in the books is repetitive. Each character’s personality is different, allowing the hero to have some faults, showing that not everyone is perfect. To make the story better, Alex Scarrow has added a different plot. While the three are busy correcting history, they discover dark secrets about the agency. This makes it mystifying and each secret is very important to finding out the truth about the Agency.

© 2018, Anvita Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Point Blank (Alex Rider Book 2) by Anthony Horowitz


Point Blank (Alex Rider Book 2)
 by Anthony Horowitz
category: fantasy, science fiction, horror
Age: 12+years
Reviewed by: Anvita
Buy from: Amazon US, Amazon IN
 
In the last newsletter, I talked about a series called ‘Power of Five: Raven’s Gate’. The same author has written another best-selling series named ‘Alex Rider’. Filled with the hair-rising adventures of Alex Rider, a fourteen-year-old who is forced to take the place of his deceased uncle, Ian Rider, an undercover spy for MI6. He is sent on a mission to reveal the secrets of Point Blanc, a disciplinary school where the rich send their children to help keep their toes in line. The accidental deaths of two parents whose kids were at Point Blanc, makes the MI6 suspicious and they send Alex to investigate the place. He is disguised as the son of Sir David Friend, a rich man who owns a successful chain of supermarkets and is equipped with a set of clever gadgets to assist him. The genius of the plot of any of the books in this series is that the solution is so spectacularly clever that one cannot even think of it, yet when one reviews all the facts, everything adds up. Usually in books involving spies, they mostly mention the excitement of the profession, but this book takes a new perspective. It shows the dislike that Alex feels towards the agency and his profession. None of the scenes in the books sound very repetitive, as if the plot of this book is the same as the plot in other such books.
© 2018, Anvita Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Our Indic Book Recommendations

From among all the books we covered in our monthly newsletters, here are some that we recommend on topics that are Indian or written by Indian authors. Hope you like them!

Six Spellmakers of Dorabjee Street, by Shabnam Minwalla 

Age: 10+ 
Category: fiction, adventure 
I can promise you a lot of laughs from this.  Nivi and her brother Nikhil, have just moved into a dull grey building called Cosy Castle, on Dorabji Street in Mumbai. She adjusts quickly with her surroundings and befriends a girl named Sarita. Their favourite spot was the garden located in the apartment. The garden had two large Bimbli trees which they used to climb and read books on. Two old ladies, Mrs. Braganza and Mrs. Katodia hate to see children laughing and playing, and start to plot together to inflict misery on the innocent children. Nivi, Nikhil, Rehaan, Sarita, Venu and Vijay must save the bimbli trees, their favourite spot.
Reviewed in our July 2017 eGranth newsletter 


A Mauryan Adventure, by Subhadra Sen Gupta 

Age: 9+ 
Category: fiction, history, mystery 
Set in the time of King Ashoka, the book is about a girl named Madhura and a conspiracy to overthrow king Ashoka. It is how Madhura and her brother Karthik, a spy, along with the help of Kamalika, a dancer who is also a spy, find out about the conspiracy and catch the culprit. I really liked this book as it portrayed Madhura as a girl of strong character,
Reviewed in our Aug 2017 eGranth newsletter! 


Gita for Children, by Roopa Pai 

Age: 12+ 
Category: Religion, Philosophy 
It reads like a storybook, simple and interesting. The chapter names itself are catchy.  Reviewed in our Aug 2017 eGranth newsletter. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Brahma Purana, by Bibek Debroy

Brahma Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy

This is the seventeenth purana I am reviewing and is a Rajasika purana. It is the first purana in the order of puranas and has around nineteen thousand shlokas. The Purana is divided into 245 chapters (adhyayas). It is believed that the Brahma Purana was the first to be composed. We are not very sure of this because the original text of this Purana is lost, and the present text is not very old. If one notices the Brahma Purana, you will notice that it seems to have been reconstructed based on the accounts of the Vishnu Purana, the Markandeya Purana, the Vayu Purana, the Mahabharata and the Harivamsha. I do not know how this Purana is a Rajasika Purana because it doesn’t appreciate Brahma more than the rest of the gods, and the part about creation is the same as the other Puranas with no extra information. This Purana starts with creation and goes on to talk about the stories behind different tirthas and temples, which also have a hidden value behind them.

Favourite Stories


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Skanda Purana, by Bibek Debroy

Skanda Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy

This is the sixteenth purana I am reviewing and is also my last Tamasika purana. I love this Purana and it is my favourite purana as it has many stories. Puranas are named thus as they are of purakala (ancient) times and also because they complement (purana) the knowledge of the Vedas. The Skanda Purana is the thirteenth Purana in the list and is the longest Purana with eighty-one thousand shlokas. It is nine times the length of the shortest purana and about four to five times the length of a purana that is average in length. It is believed that the Skanda Purana was the first Purana to be written, as quite a few of the stories are the same ones that are mentioned in the Mahabharata. This Purana is divided into seven parts or khandas, which are as follows:

  • Maheshvara khanda – the part relating to Shiva
  • Vishnu Khanda – the part relating to Vishnu
  • Brahma Khanda – the part relating to Brahma
  • Kashi Khanda – the part relating to the holy city of Kashi or Varanasi
  • Avanti Khanda – the part relating to the kingdom of Avanti
  • Nagara Khanda – the part relating to the cities (nagara)
  • Prabhasa Khanda – the part relating to the holy tirtha (place of pilgrimage) of Prabhasa

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Varaha Purana, by Bibek Debroy

Varaha Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy

This is the fourteenth purana I am reviewing and is the last of the sattvika Puranas. This Purana is slightly longer than the Vishnu Purana, and is divided into two sections, the purva bhaga and the uttara bhaga. This Purana is known as the Varaha Purana because this Purana was narrated by Vishnu in his Varaha avatara or form to the Earth on her request. This Purana does not talk about any specific topic but include the usual information that any Purana should have, and then narrates stories according to the questions asked by Mother Earth. The stories in this Purana include many stories on the different tithis and also on the different sites of pilgrimage, and also include a lot on why Mathura is one of the holiest places one can visit. This Purana also points out what acts will displease Lord Vishnu, and how would you make an idol.

Favourite Stories

Monday, April 16, 2018

Agni Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy


Agni Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy

This is the twelfth purana I am reviewing, and this too is a tamasika purana. The Agni Purana was narrated by Agni, the god of fire, to Sage Vashishta, who then narrated it to Rishi Vyasadev. This is how the purana got its name. Unlike most puranas, the Agni purana does not have any parts, or bhagas. It is simply divided into three hundred and eighty-three chapters. The last chapter is considered to be the most interesting chapter as it talks about the Advaita brahmajnana, which teaches the union of the individual human soul (atman) with the brahman, the divine essence. This is very important and interesting because only when the atman and the brahman merge will one experience true bliss. The Agni Purana is an exception as the five characteristics that a Purana should contain are not all there, as the Agni Purana contains more of rituals, practices, omens, astrology, etc. This Purana is eighth in the list of Mahapuranas and contains fifteen and a half thousand shlokas.