Book Review - The Bankster: A page turner

Thursday, November 15, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 1 Comments

Title: The Bankster
Language: English
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher: Rupa Publications (2012)
ISBN: 8129120488
ISBN-13: 9788129120489
Binding: Paperback
Price: Rs. 250 (Buy from Flipkart for Rs.175)
Pages: 364

Synopsis: For someone who has some understanding about financial world must read this book. It has a wonderful mix of crime, politics, romance and mystery. This is a gripping book where story spawns across most of the continents in the world.

Detailed Review:  The Bankster is a story about banking fraud, but does not limit to a simple fraud.  A series of unexplained murders at a bank lead to the discovery of a money laundering operation. Bit by bit the pieces of this jigsaw come together and reveal the truth, unravel the mystery behind those 350 odd pages.

The narrative is free flowing and keeps the reader engrossed from beginning to end. The setting up of the plot in the current world scenario adds spice to the readers experience and many a times, I was wondering whether this is fiction or something that may actually have taken place over the past few months in India and abroad!

Storyline:  The story begins in Angola where a man named Joseph  Braganza, allegedly belonging to the CIA, who has come to deal in Blood Diamonds. The second story is of a man named Krishna Menon, who lives in Kerala and the third story is about GB2 Bank and its employees who are based in Mumbai .

If you belong to non-finance sector, the good part is that, the language used in this book is not too difficult and there are not too many banking words, so that really helps a reader who is new to such kind of a novel. It will not make one feel out of place due to absence of knowledge about banking.

  1. The biggest positive is the easy language which will keep the reader engrossed from start to finish.
  2. The author seems to have done a good bit of research to piece together the stories from a technical and a factual point of view.
  3. This book to me is a first of its kind multi-country based book written by an Indian author. If there have been any before this, I am ignorant of such. This adds spice to the novel.
  1. A few of the characters introduced have no major role in the storyline and building them up could have been omitted (Nikhil)
  2. There are a few places where it appears that the story has taken an impossible turn and it is very unlikely that such events can take place.
  3. The protagonist of the story is introduced rather late in the story and his build up leaves a lot to be desired.
  4. With three subplots, perhaps it had too much on the table. The intricacies of banking could have been toned down a bit. (But then I am a bit prejudiced towards bankers :P )
  5. The Characters have no depth. You don't attach emotionally to any single character.
 Who will enjoy this? - Almost anyone with a penchant for thrillers and those who are looking to read between the lines in the daily newspaper stories.

Who may not enjoy this? -   Readers who like for their fictional characters to have more detail.

Buy or Don’t Buy? –  Definite buy from me. If nothing, this book highlights the intricacies of the financial dealings of multi national banks and non-state players and why our banking guidelines are among the strictest in the world, yet there are loop holes. Flipkart at the moment is even giving a Rs.75  discount on the cover price. It’s a steal at Rs.175/-.

I’ll leave you to it.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at  ... Participate now to get free books!


Gripping, Fast-paced, Engrossing, and very Entertaining - Red Jihad: Batttle for South Asia

Thursday, October 25, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 1 Comments

Good read, a bit idealistic and a very filmy ending, but nevertheless gripping and plausible!!
Title: Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia
Language: English
Author: Sami Ahmad Khan
Genre:  Suspense and Thriller
Publisher:  Rupa Publications India Pvt Ltd. (2012)
ISBN: 8129119870
ISBN-13: 9788129119872 , 978-8129119872
Binding: Paperback
Price: Rs. 295 (Buy from Flipkart for Rs.227)
Pages: 280

Book Synopsis:  What will happen if the fanatic rebels of two countries with a bitter past join forces? What if Pakistan has transformed into a democracy and India in to a military regime? In Sami Ahmad Khan's gripping novel, we meet the above scenarios and the idea of World War III.

Review Summary: The kind of novel I personally love to read, Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia, is the kind of book, that even with all its flaws is un-put-down-able! I received the book at 4 in the evening and I had finished reading it by 7 P.M.

Detailed Review:

The novel is set in the year 2014, and follows a series of events that seem entirely plausible given the way things are moving along today! (The author has also pointed out how the events today are playing out eerily similar to some aspects of what he had written before they happened!!)

The premise of the book is what would happen if the two major "revolutionary" rebel/fanatic groups i.e. the Naxalites of India and the Pakistan Taliban join forces. Not entirely impossible right? Heck! There are even a few news stories recently of how this may have already happened.

In the novel, this happens some time in early 2014 when Pakistan has transformed itself in to a Democratic republic and the word "Islamist State" has been removed from its constitution. The Taliban have all but lost out in the internal war and even the people of Pakistan have stopped supporting the war-mongers. The Army has been tamed and the new generation of leaders are stable in thought and measured in their action.  This last aspect of the novel is what I found to be too idealistic and though not impossible to think about, unlikely to happen any time soon!

The India of 2014 on the other hand is ruled by a young politician, left-leaning even (Shades of Rahul Gandhi anyone?) and has become a self-reliant country, with peace along its borders. China has formed a peaceful alliance and Pakistan has stopped insurgency. The Government has appointed a tough Army chief who has started routing the naxals and has made the Naxalite leaders run for cover in to neighbouring Nepal.

Indian Naxalite Agyaat ties up with Pakistani extremist Yasser Basheer to hijack a Top Secret Indian missile, Pralay and use it on India, thereby deflecting the government’s focus from the Red corridor.   The mini crisis that sets in following the hijack of the missile, sees the Army chief in a coup against the democratic government and the setting up of a thrilling mid part of the novel which you hope never ends!

The missile is launched and seems headed towards New Delhi and the country braces for maximum damage. But when the missile intriguingly changes course and lands on Lahore instead of Delhi, the consequences change drastically. Pakistan wages war against her neighbor despite the Indians pleading innocence and the possibility of a nuclear war looms large.

How the threat plays out forms a good part of the rest of the novel and the twists and turns that the author has managed to blend in to the story makes for wonderful reading.

Gripping, Fast-paced, Engrossing, and very Entertaining. This book will hopefully spawn a new generation of novels in India that deal with the politics and foreign affair thrillers, a space that is waiting to be explored for the Indian audience.
For a debut book, Sami Ahmad Khan has done a brilliant job. He has left no stone unturned to ensure that the plot of the book keeps a reader on his mental-toes throughout. The story goes from past events to future events seamlessly and characters of the book are well defined and have been intelligently handled.

Similarity with current day events make the storyline entirely plausible and the author tries to avoid generalizations and speaks of specifics, which shows that he has done a lot of research into the events.  

Negatives:  The author shows off his command over the English language throughout the book. However the use of complex words could have been curtailed as it does throw away the casual reader a little. Simple easy daily language would have been better. 

The ending appears to be all too contrived and a bit too idealistic with a scenario that is straight out of  Hollywood potboiler with conspiracy theories.                                                     

How the Naxalites come to know of this Top Secret missile is never revealed and is left up to the reader to put two and two together and come up with the answer. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but does create a minor hiccup.

Who will enjoy this? -  People who love to unearth conspiracies hidden in the daily news items, Fiction book lovers, political thrill seekers and almost everyone who likes to have a good read.

Who may not enjoy this? -  Romance novel enthusiasts :P

Buy or not to buy? - Definite Buy! Flipkart is currently running a Rs. 68 discount on the cover price of Rs. 295. Buy Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia here.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at . Participate now to get free books!


The Krishna Key - A Poor Man's Da Vinci Code

Friday, October 05, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 4 Comments

Readable, but not up to the mark!
Title: The Krishna Key
Language: English
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Genre:  Suspense and Thriller
Publisher: Westland (2012)
ISBN: 9381626685
ISBN-13: 9789381626689, 978-9381626689
Binding: Paperback
Price: Rs. 250 (Buy from Flipkart for Rs.175)
Pages: 475

Synopsis: The story begins with a murder and moves along at a rather decent rate bringing in new characters almost every 2-3 pages. The author tries to impart a bit of knowledge on the life of the hindu mythological god, Krishna, hence the title. Those readers who have read Dan Brown's - The Da Vinci Code and many other novels along similar plot should take this novel with a pinch of salt.In the end the novel is filled with cliches and plot loop holes that draw away from any positives the book has.

Detailed Review:
Before I begin, let me say that I am a huge fan of thrillers and suspense novels, especially those that have a relook at some historical conspiracies. That is the reason why The Da Vinci Code, despite many of its factual inaccuracies and fallacies remains very close to my heart. When, I received a mail from the BlogAdda book review program that I've been lucky to be selected for reviewing The Krishna Key, i was thrilled! I had gone through the synopsis of the book on the offer page and was immediately struck by the similar plot lines (not exactly similar) between The Krishna Key and The Da Vinci Code.

The Krishna Key exhibits Ashwin Sanghi's profound love for history, which is seen in the authors previous couple of books - Chanakya's Chant and Rozabal Line. (The book dedicates 5 pages to the references and research material with detailed links to the sources for those interested!)

Storyline: The story starts in an interesting note with the murder of Anil Varshney by Taarak Vakil, who since his childhood was made to believe that he is the final avatar of Vishnu- the Kalki by his guru, addressed as Mataji. Due to circumstantial evidence, the suspicion for the murder points to Anil Varshey's close friend and almost brother - Ravi Mohan Saini a historian and Krishna enthusiast. The remainder of the story is an account of the journey of Saini with his doctoral student Priya, the hide and seek between the different characters and a set of carefully designed twists and turns.
The story has its moments where it gets dull and cliched with plot loop holes and places where it gently blows away the mind. Interspersed in between are stories of Lord Krishna from his birth to his death and his teachings. The story shifts from Rajasthan to Delhi to Gujarat and Mumbai to the Himalayas, Somnath and finally Agra. We are told about the significance of each of these places  with respect to the life and times of Lord Krishna.

Positives: A lot of research has been done by the author to present the story in a sensible and accurate way so that the timeline is feasible and looks realistic. The first half of the book is almost a lecture on the life of Krishna but has been creatively portrayed with historic interpretation and interlinking of several distanced unrelated fragments to form a rational whole. 
Negatives: Plot loopholes abound with the Author/publisher misplacing names , especially towards the end of the novel. In places the book appears as though it is a history lesson and that you're back in a class room. The narrative slacks in the middle third of the book, especially when you're just beginning to find enthusiasm to read the book! The climax of this novel reminded me of 'The Lost Symbol' by Dan Brown. The novel builds the excitement and reaches a climax where it disappoints simply by being anti-climactic. In a way it was very disappointing.

Who will enjoy this? - History buffs, People who liked Dan Brown's series - The Da Vinci Code, The Lost symbol.

Who may not enjoy this? -  People who liked Dan Brown's series - The Da Vinci Code, The Lost symbol!! (Yes :D) and Religious nuts.

Buy or Don’t Buy? –  It's a tough one to rate this book actually. On one hand the book is well researched and a genuine attempt at a historical thriller, however it does fall short of my expectations. Given a choice, I may buy it but probably not at the original cost.  Flipkart at the moment is even giving a Rs.75  discount on the cover price. It’s a steal at Rs.175/-.

I’ll leave you to it.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at  ... Participate now to get free books!


Identity and Culture Crisis: White or Black?

Sunday, September 09, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

The premise for the autobiography Life on the Color line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black seems unbelievable and readers may question how author Gregory Howard Williams could not know he was black - he would only have to look in the mirror to see his skin colour.

Reader's learn that the author's father. Buster Williams had "passed," or looked pale enough that whites did not realize that he was black. By marrying a white woman and running a successful business Buster did well in white society.

Eventually the author's parents divorced, and Buster took Gregory and his brother back to his hometown to live with their grandmother. The boys had not been told that they were black. Instead they had been led to believe by their parents they were Italian; consequently, the boys learnt on the train ride to Muncie, Indiana, their father had been "passing".

Describing that moment the author remembers thinking; I'm white! I look white! I go to "whites only" school,'whites only" movie theaters and "whites only" swimming pools! I bad never heard anything crazier in my life! How could  Dad tell us such a mean lie? "I saw my father as I had never seen him before. In my .eyes he was transformed from a swarthy Italian to a high-yellow mulatto."

This book is a good source of information about the social conditions of blacks in the United Stated during the 1950s and '60s. Gregory Howard Williams and his brother had the unique experience of living in two different cultures, and experienced first hand how whites were more privileged. Blacks in the United Stales were segregated from the rest of society in lower paying jobs. In public places such as buses and swimming pools they were not allowed in the same areas as whites.The author describes his frustration at not being able to do the things that he had grown up doing, such as sitting at the front of the bus.

The father's story about passing as a white person would also be interesting to the reader. As well as wanting to learn more about William's grandmother. Miss Sallie and how she felt about being a cook at her own son's restaurant and being unable to acknowledge her own child and grandchildren. The author also leaves the readers hanging because even though he writes about what be and his brother and a few of his friends are currently doing, he doesn't describe his present relationship with his mother's side of the family and whether he has any contact with them.

Gregory Howard Williams' book is easy to read and gives readers a glimpse into a boy's experience of having his life turned upside down.


The Naked Ape—A Book Review

Saturday, September 08, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

The Naked Ape: The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris is a book I came across in a second hand book shop during one of my trips to Bangalore. After purchasing the book, I learnt that it had a controversial history, with scholars arguing it to be a textbook,  in biology, pre-med, sociology, and psychology courses.Just what is this book all about? It's about us . . . the human race.

There are 193 living species of monkeys and apes, 192 of which are covered with hair. Number 193 is the naked ape called man. Man came into being about 15 million years ago. At that time a sudden change in the climate occurred that sharply reduced. the size of the forests and forced a still hairy ape to forage for his food in the open spaces. Separated from the relatively easy - life of getting his food, man's' ancestors, says Morris, were forced to become hunters in order to survive. In the swift pace of the hunt, those with the least body hair became the least overheated and ran down the most game. Through the process of evolutionary selection, man gradually shed his furry coat entirely.

Some very interesting questions are raised in The Naked Ape and the  answers are somewhat startling, if not somewhat  logical and understandable.- For example, Why do 80 per cent of human mothers hold their infants in their left arm? It places the child closer to the heartbeat that comforted him in the womb. The reassuring effects of that heartbeat, according to Morris, continue into adult life.

A nervous speaker" often rock's back and forth on his feet at a heartbeat frequency. And why is he so nervous? Because everyone in the audience is staring at him - a signal of primitive aggression. Another interesting development about the naked ape is his sex life.

Emergence from the forest converted man into "the sexiest primate alive". To ensure that the female would be faithful to the male while he was away on the hunt, and that -the man would remain with the female to help in the extended rearing of the more slowing developing offspring, the "pair bond", or love, came to Homo Sapiens.

At the same rime, sexual relations became more rewarding to both the female and the male. The once brief mating season turned into a year-round affair.

In all of his endeavors, argues Morris, man should, take pains not to ignore his primeval instincts or else "our suppressed biological desires will build up and up until the dam bursts and the whole of our elaborate existence is swept away in the flood". A little dramatic, perhaps, but by taking this approach, and enhancing it with wit and graceful, non-technical prose, Zoologist Morris strikes a responsive chord in the very primate he is attempting to explain.


The Turning Leaves - A Delightful Book

Saturday, September 08, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

Candlelight, beautiful antiques, and famous old paintings form the setting for a best seller- "The Turning Leaves" by Ellen Proctor.
A Warm book for the sleepless nights
The Turning Leaves by Ellen Proctor - A Delightful read

The theme centers about a typical American family with a long line of American ancestors which were remembered for their many and varied achievements. The father, James IV, didn't inherit this ambitious ability to forge ahead and as a result is just a lawyer of little renown.

The mother is an uncolorful personality, living mostly in the past, centering all her energies in bringing up her children—seven in number.

The experiences of these children, who had inherited all the spirit and fire that their parents lacked, are told in a most extraordinary manner—extraordinary in that they are narrated without obvious fiction, making one feel the comparison to personal experiences.

The two main characters, Julia and Gabrielle, were the fourth generation of daughters to bear these names. Julia has a strange driving ambition with no particular talent while Gabrielle has talent—her voice pointing her toward opera-- but she lacks the ambition to force her to that goal.

Julia and Gabrielle unconsciously face the same problems, dream the same dreams, and experience the same joys and sorrows that shaped the lives and molded the destinies of the other Julias and Gabrielles that preceded them. They cannot see this repetition but their father who had studied records of his ancestors, can see these likenesses reflected in the lives of his daughters and ponders over them.

The affect of this rich, yet strange American heritage upon these children, is given in one of the most delightful books, "The Turning Leaves." A $10,000 Prize Winning Novel This story sweeps you along in the turmoil of daily activities of a large, boisterous family. You will be most affected by its laughter and its lusty living.



Saturday, July 28, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 2 Comments

Exultant Enthusiastic
Entertain Harbor Indulge
Exempt from distrust  Exempt from distrust, reassuring


This Cinquain Sequence is written in an attempt to learn poetry along with fellow enthusiasts.

A Cinquain Sequence is as follows -

Line 1- 1 Noun
Line 2- 2 Adjectives related to 1
Line 3- 3 Action Verbs related to 1
Line 4- 4 Feelings-a full sentence
Line 5- 1 Synonym or a word that sums it all up.