Tuesday, March 31, 2015

#BookReview: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

On the jacket:

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Review:

This book arrived home when I was desperately looking for a feel-good book to read. My idea of feel-good here is a book that makes me feel better, the content needn't be feel-good. I had also read rave reviews about All The Bright Places, so obviously had a good amount of expectations peppered with curiosity.

Violet Markey and Theodore Finch's story, this books begins with a line that opens a lot of probabilities to follow in the pages to come - Is today and good day to die? Violet and Finch meet when dealing with major problems of their own and it's only with each other when they can be themselves and deal with all their problems. 

Violet and Finch are opposite yet similar. While she is popular yet a people pleaser; he is brash and goes out of the way to hurt people. Yet, both need saving. It was in an instant that I could identify with both the characters, we either know them or we are one of them. The story is that realistic. Jennifer Niven has done a very fine job in building the characters.

All the Bright Places isn't as happy a story as the title suggests. It broke my heart, to be honest. Beautifully written, this story grips the heart. It has left me in awe, a little heart-broken and sad, yet feeling oh so wonderful. You know how at times something is so sad that you cry buckets, yet you feel good that your cried? That's exactly what this book did to me.  

Rating: *****/5

Saturday, March 21, 2015

#BookReview : Canvas of Dreams by Jaya Siva Murty

On the jacket:


Riya seems to have lost everything—the man she loves to another woman, her husband to death and her soul to fear.  An unexpected meeting with her first love, Ryan, stirs up long repressed feelings but also allows her to move out of the long shadow of the past. Unburdened, she feels free to pursue her dream of opening an art gallery and the handsome and intriguing artist Rehaan. But memories of her marriage refuse to fade away and then suddenly, Ryan shows up in her life again. Now, Riya must find the courage to reconcile her past and present.  For Riya, life is a canvas of dreams. Can she distinguish between reality and fantasy? 

Review:

A love story that is far from being a mushy story wrapped in a bubble. Canvas of Dreams is what real love stories are made of - more pain than bliss, more sacrifices than gains. Riya our protaginist loves Ryan but he is not the man she gets to marry. The man she does get to have a marriage with, dies. And she is left a scarred individual trying to get back on her feet, bury her past and release her dream of opening an art gallery.

Riya meets Ryan in Singapore. Ryan who is now married. She knows she still loves him but also that she needs to stay out of his life. Once back in Mumbai, she tries to confront her nightmares and bring a closure to her past. Thing about this book is that Riya is not a character, she is one of us - she is us. We have all had our share of men - some stayed, some damaged us, some healed us.  

The plot has been give a very subtle treatment. As I said, this is not your usual mush. This is a heartwarming tale of a woman and her life.

Rating: ****/5
[This review is for IndiReads. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

#BookReview: The Return of the Butterfly (Social Butterfly #3) by Moni Mohsin

On the jacket:


I tell you the halaats are so bad, so bad that don’t even ask. The Talibans sitting on top of our heads, bombs bursting left, right and centre, drones droning away, load-shedding a hundred hours a day, servants answering back, in-laws trying to upstage you, friends throwing you out of their kitties and on top of that elections ka tamasha. Janoo tau is coming closer and closer to a nervous brake out while Mummy is getting sterile dementia. As for Kulchoo, bhai, don’t even ask.  
But I’ve decided, come what may, I tau am not going to let anyone clamp my style. I’m going to live just as I like—watching my Turkish soaps, going to GTs and weddings, throwing kitty parties, telling everyone everything saaf-saaf and, of course, doing summers in London—voh tau must hai na. And I’m going to do it in my Jimmy Choo ki heels and my sleeveless designer shirts, and my streaked hair and my Prada ki sunglasses. This much I’m telling you all from now only. So tighten your seat belts, okay?

Review:

I haven't read the previous books of the series - The Diary of a Social Butterfly and Duty Free, so it took me a while to understand why the protagonist is talking the way she is and who the rest of the characters are.

This is Butterfly's narration of her life and the people in them. Being an Indian who hasn't really met another Pakistani, Butterfly reminds me of housewives in upscale areas of Delhi/Punjab. She considers herself very elite, has to speak in English which is almost always wrong and is a bit of a pea brain. Her wit lies in her language and the way she expresses herself. She uses a lot of Hindi as well as English, however I need to point that the Hindi is not how we write on this side of the familiar. It's only recently that I have become familiar with spellings like tau (we spell it as toh), honay walay (we write hone wale), so if I'd read this before, I would have been a bit bewildered with the text. 

Moving on to Mohsin's writing, it is witty. One could actually envision a dumb, rich housewife being and doing what Butterfly was. Butterfly is most interesting - has her head in the crowd yet likes to have an opinion on everything, even politics. She lives with her husband Janoo and son Kulchoo. She is superficial and believes being rich and good looking is a virtue. The language did turn me off initially but few pages into the book and I realised how deliberate and necessary that was, to build the characters and the scenario. 

I plan to read the first two books of the series now, and then re-read this again. I quite likes Mohsin's style of writing once I got used to it, I'd like to read all of Butterfly's story.

Rating: ***.5/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ranbir Kapoor launches cover of Ronnie Screwvala's book Dream With Your Eyes Open


The superstar of Bollywood’ first family, Ranbir Kapoor, launches the book cover of India’s early first-generation entrepreneurs, Ronnie Screwvala  

~Ronnie Screwvala pens his entrepreneurial journey – Dream With Your Eyes Open and   announces the commencement of online bookings~  

28th February 2015, Mumbai: Ronnie Screwvala’s entrepreneurial journey is an inspiration, to say the   least. Founder of one of India’s largest media & entertainment conglomerates, Ronnie Screwvala has   penned a book on his journey, from Cable TV to toothbrushes manufacturing and from Theatre to Media   and Entertainment, Dream with your Eyes Open, which aims to champion entrepreneurship in the   country.  Bollywood’s latest entry to the superstar brigade, Ranbir Kapoor, unveiled the cover of   Screwvala’s book at the event held in the city today.     

“Ronnie is an inspiration for everyone who dare to make their dreams come true. His conviction in an out-  of-the-box film like Barfi made me realize that when belief meets innovation, it creates magic! I am   delighted to launch the cover of his book and look forward to its release. I will definitely be buying the first day, first copy,” said Ranbir Kapoor at the event.     

Speaking about this book, Ronnie Screwvala said, “Dream With Your Eyes Open shares failures and   triumphs, thoughts and anecdotes of my journey. It  
details out my vast experiences and myriad lessons   learned from more than two decades of building some successful (and some not-so-successful)   businesses.  This book is about ‘it can be done’, not ‘I did it’. It’s all possible. Just dream your own dream—and when   you do, dream with your eyes open”       At the event, Ronnie Screwvala also announced that the commencement of the online bookings for   Dream With Your Eyes Open, with the book slated to hit the stands on 2nd April 2015.     Demonstrating an innate ability to merge creativity with commerce, Ronnie Screwvala has been termed   Jack Warner of India by Newsweek, Esquire rated him one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st   Century and Fortune as Asia’s 25 most powerful. He is credited with pioneering Cable TV in India,   building one of the largest toothbrush manufacturing operations – before founding UTV, a media and   entertainment conglomerate spanning Television, Digital, Mobile, Broadcasting, Games and Motion   Pictures, which he divested to The Walt Disney Company in 2012.     Onto his second innings, Ronnie is driven by his interest in championing Entrepreneurship in India, and is   focused on building his next set of ground up businesses in high growth and impact sectors. His more   recent commitment to being a first mover in Sports has made him lend his support to Kabaddi and   Football. He is passionate about social welfare and with his wife Zarina and through their Swades   Foundation has given single-minded focus to empowering one million lives in rural India every 5-6 years   through a unique 360-degree model.

You can buy the book here.




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

#BookReview : When I Was 25: The Leaders Look Back by Shaili Chopra

On the jacket:


What do you dream about when you envisage your future?  In When I Was 25, Shaili Chopra traces the youth of eminent personalities like Adi Godrej, K.P. Singh, P. Chidambaram and Dimple Kapadia. These successful people open up about the challenges they faced and the choices they made to reach where they are today. They also part with invaluable advice to the young, based on what they have learned in their careers. Honest and refreshing, this book will inspire you and point you to the path of greater glory.

Review:

When I Was 25 is a collection of flashbacks of lives of thirteen leaders, looking back in their lives. We have Uday Shankar talking about the his foray into journalism in his early twenties, Shashi Tharoor about joining the UN at an early age, Dimple Kapadia about dealing with a broken marriage and bringing up two small children, and Rajdeep Sardesai talking about his early days as a journalist. We also read about Adi Godrej, Sadhguru, Zia Mody, P Chidambaram, K P Singh, Jai Panda, Kalpana Morparia, Vikram Talwar and Sandeep Khosla.

While I loved reading about Shashi Tharoor the most, I was left wondering why I was reading about Dimple Kapadia - couldn't see her as a leader. Sardesai's chapter seemed more like 'how he was born with a silver spoon' initially and only later does it go on to throw more light on to his struggles and the ladder of his success.

A very mixed combination of leaders, interesting yet in few chapters I wished there was more.

Rating: ***/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

#BookReview: Half Love Half Arranged by Itisha Peerbhoy

On the jacket:

Rhea Kanwar is thirty, unmarried and tending to fat, who one morning realizes that it is high time she did something about her life. She despises her mom’s best friend, Bubbles Auntie, who always has something nasty to say about poor Rhea, and to top it all up she is invited to all the family functions. To avoid further questions from the rest of her family, Rhea decides to plunge into the marriage market. She meets several guys and every new guy she comes across seems perfect to her for the initial few days. But after a while she starts finding them weirder than the last. Vyash, one of her prospective suitors, freaks out when he realizes Rhea is not the pill, Jay has a super cool tattoo, Mazher is a perfect gentleman and Sid is atrocious in bed, but almost perfect on the outside. But Rhea has been in love with her best friend for the longest time. What will Rhea do now? Will she settle for an arranged marriage or find her true love?

Review:

The thing about chick-lits is that the theme is same, more or less - an independent girl, who has everything going for her, except for her love life. What makes one chick-lit different and more interesting from another, is what kind of treatment the author has given to the plot they have spun.  

Itisha Peerbhoy has done a fantastic job in portraying our protaginist, Rhea's life, travails, joys and blunders. This thirty year old is a but overweight and single. Two things any woman should never be, if the rules of society are to be followed. Rhea has a kick-ass job and a family that loves her but of course she is thirty and needs to be married off quickly.

Characters are funny and well-defined. Rhea has two sisters - Pia and Sia. Yes, the usual unimaginative parents. Pia is married, with a baby while Sia is in her confused teens. /Rhea's mother, though loves her a lot, is hell bent on introducing her to an array of prospective grooms. She meets them, dates them for a while, thinking this is 'it', but then gets dumped. From losing her virginity to the first guy she met with her family, to getting into a string of senseless relationships with almost every guy her parents introduced her to - Rhea went from a sensible, independent girl to a girl who had no clue about what she was doing, except that she wanted to get married.

All this while, her silent best friend has been loving her for years without letting her know and always ensured she is okay, but she had been ignoring his love. There comes a time when Rhea needs to decide - how many more senseless relationships! What does she do?

Rating :***.5/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Monday, February 9, 2015

#BookReview: Highway on my Plate-II: the indian guide to roadside eating by Rocky Singh, Mayur Sharma

On the jacket:


The boys are back!  

And this time, they are hungrier than before. Travelling the length and breadth of the country in search for gastronomical perfection, India’s original street food connoisseurs Rocky and Mayur promise to take you on a culinary road trip like no other.  

Based on the highly acclaimed NDTV Good Times TV series, this second edition of the book which won the BEST IN THE WORLD Gourmand World Cookbook Award 2012 covers more than two hundred new food joints, over 1500 different food items, and provides indispensable information on the best dhabas and street stalls in the country.  

With authentic food reviews, interesting visuals from the show, and even maps for directions, Highway on my Plate-II is the ultimate foodie’s guide to Indian roadside eating.

Review:

I picked this book up over the weekend with a lot of anticipation. And by the end of it, I was left with mixed emotions.

In this book, we get listed the must eat places in all the different states across the country. The states are listed alphabetically. I didn't read the book from cover to cover as should be. Instead, I searched for cities I have lived in and read about the outlets mentioned. Surprisingly, Nagpur doesn't feature in Maharashtra, actually all places mentioned are towards the coast. And! There is no Madhya Pradesh! There are twenty-five states covered in this book. Another thing I noted how in the West Bengal section it is written that Adda is pronounced as Addo which is wrong. At this point, I became a bit wary of what laid ahead. 

Nevertheless, as a reader, the book was interesting. Of the states and cities I have never visited, I shall be using this as a guidebook. What was interesting was how the book mentions a bit of something on the side, which increases the know-how about the place/state in general. The introduction to each state and information about their culture, cuisines etc is also very interesting. 

There are so many places yet to explore and eat in, what this book made me realise is that there are places I need to eat in even at places I have been to! 

Rating: ***.5/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]



Saturday, February 7, 2015

#BookReview: The Wedding Season by Su Dharmapala

On the jacket:


Meet Shani - she's thirty-two, single and has a job to die for. And she likes her life just the way it is, thank you! So why do her family and friends insist on trying to convince her that the only way to the perfect life is meeting the perfect man? When Shani's horoscope miraculously reveals that now is the best time of her life for marriage, her mother decides to take control. As the Sri Lankan wedding season opens she turns a deaf ear to Shani's protests and arranges a parade of 101 potential grooms, in the hope that her shamefully unmarried daughter will salvage the family honour by finally finding Mr Right. But true life, like true love, can get very complicated. Amidst a riot of hilarious dates with would-be husbands, Shani has to cope with a minor Machiavelli at work, a house that is literally falling down around her ears, and a neurotic mother with serious cultural baggage. Worst of all, her best friend, who seems to have it all, is sliding into depression, and Shani seems powerless to help. Through a flurry of curry, cricket, sarees, and sumptuous ceremonies, Shani comes to learn that love comes in many disguises - and degrees of satisfaction - and that life is a one-shot game, even if you do believe in reincarnation. 

Review:

Before I talk about the book, let's take a look at the cover. How beautiful is it! Special thumbs up to the cover, for I had gazed at it for quite some time.

A SriLankan woman living in Melbourne, life is very typically the usual - a great job, an interfering mother, awesome friends and boy trouble. Shani's mother is desperate to have her married off to a Sinhalese boy. What follows is madness, the kind of madness I loved to read. 

I finished reading this book a week ago and had been grinning since then, every time I thought of the characters, specially the mother. Story of a typical 30+, independent woman, with a job to die for but the only problem is that she is single. And as it happens world over (more in our very own south Asia), according to her family, what is the need of the hour is for her to get married. Her hard work and glorious career be damned, it's a shame she still isn't married! The relationship Shani shares with her best friends Amani, Tehara and Una is adorable.

A tad over the top, but then that's how us south Asians tend to be, specially our mothers. One might find stereotypes in the characters but that's what makes it a fun, interesting read. Shani's mother was infuriating, yet adorable. The book does take a serious turn mid-way; the transition from fun to serious was very smooth. I suggest you pick this chiclit soon!


Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Simon & Schuster. However, views expressed are my own and unbiased]


#BookReview: A Mirrored Life by Rabisankar Bal, Arunava Sinha

On the jacket:


On his way from Tangiers to China, the medieval Moorish traveller Ibn Battuta arrives in Konya, Turkey where the legendary dervish Rumi had lived, danced and died. More than half a century may have passed since his death, but his poetry remains alive, inscribed in every stone and tree and pathway. 



Rumi’s followers entrust Ibn Battuta with a manuscript of his life stories to spread word of the mystic on his travels. As Battuta reads and recites these tales, his listeners discover their own lives reflected in these stories—fate has bound them, and perhaps you, to Rumi. 



A Mirrored Life reaffirms the magical powers of storytelling, making us find Rumi in each of our hearts.

Review:

To be truthful, I don't know where to begin writing this review from. Should I write about the author, the translator, the book or the subject. Each was so par excellence, that someone like me ends up being at a loss of words at times like this. I finished reading this book more than 36 hours ago and am still trying to frame sentences in my head, to justify the experience it was.

I would have said this book was poetry on paper, but that wouldn't have made sense. There is numerous poetry on paper. You see, as I said, I am short of the right words. Still, let me try.

Sinha is an excellent translator, I don't need to say it out to the world. I'd read Chowringhee, I think some 8-9 years ago and since then, despite being able to read in Bengali, I 'like' reading his edited version. I have not read Bal's previous book yet but I have heard only praises about it. So when another book by Bal, translated by Sinha came up, the temptation to read it was high.

Ibn Battuta is on a journey to find out about the life and times of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. We are on the journey with Ibn and trust me, it's a mystical one. The other characters Ibn encounters while on his journey, the lessons he learns from them, the experiences he gains - all stay with the reader too. I cannot say this enough that most translated books leave you with a bad taste of a feeling that a lot was lost in translation, but not this book. You can hear the author, what he wants to tell you. 

Rumi's relationships, his life experiences and his own transition from being a religious scholar to a dervish, his relationship with Shams everything draws the reader into a divine rapture. 

As I had guessed, I could not do justice to the book in the review, so I will not attempt more. Pick it to read a tale so soulful and magical that it will leave you wanting more. 

Rating: *****/5

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

#BookReview: Democrazy by Atulya Mahajan


Democrazy

On the jacket:


The mysterious Badi Sarkar wants her son to become the Prime Minister of India. Her reticent son Chhote Sarkar wants to eat ice-cream. Great Leader wants his Orchid party to win the elections. He also wants a wand that works. The horny Baba Neemacharya wants to do the neem-yoga with Girl 45. Impulsive billionaire industrialist Giani Seth wants to beat Chaddha in Candy Crush. Honest Ambika Madam wants to retire in peace. Volatile BB wants to send all corrupt politicians to jail. Babli wants to lose weight.  

But what is the PM doing in a cave in the Himalayas?!  

Democrazy is a satirical look at the madness and brouhaha in present-day India, where nothing is what it seems to be, power is all-important, and everything people do is to win the race to power.  

PS: No politicians were hurt in the writing of this book.

Review:

At a time when freedom of expression has become a joke, a satire based on Indian politics is in my opinion, just what this country needed. We need to laugh, to undo the tension and the learn to be more tolerant, yes we do.

Leaving that aside, Democrazy is a political spoof, as the cover and the blurb suggest. One thing about spoofs is that they always bother me because the characters are literally picked from real life and only their names are changed. What Mahajan has done is, kept a bit from the mould and given his characters their own characteristics as well. You are quite sure who he is talking about, but then, you might be wrong too! 

Anyone who is active on social media is either a fanatic 'supporting' his favourite political party or like me, is close to losing sanity with the tamasha happening on our political radars currently. While reality is funny, obnoxious and disgusting ... Mahajan's version is downright funny. He does have a way with being funny while sounding absolutely serious.

I was quite liking the book, laughing to myself while turning the pages when a few pages down, I reached the chapter which talks about a school that is set to be one of the polling booths in the city. Wonderful, I thought. Just that morning I'd gone to cast my vote and wondered what goes behind setting up a election booth, the administration behind it. And here was a chapter albeit satirical, on the same!

Beginning with a prime time television show B for Buddhi where the panelists were representatives of the nation's major political parties, gathered in hope to have a debate about which of them will rule the country next. What unfolds is a hilarious sequence of events, chapter after chapter. 

This being Mahajan's second book, what I felt with every page I turned, was how as an author he has grown. While his first was a first and a pretty decent attempt at that, with Democrazy, Mahajan has pushed the bar higher for himself. 

Rating: *****/5

[This is an author request review, however, the views are strictly personal.]

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