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.]

Friday, January 23, 2015

#BookReview: How to stop your grownup from making bad decisions (Nina the Philosopher, #1) by Judy Balan

On the jacket:


Nina has questions.   Are moms just little girls who are taller and wear prettier shoes? Can I call pest control services to get rid of a pesky seven-year-old boy? What if my sister is a voodoo high priestess? Is a grownup refusing to grow up the same as someone pretending to be asleep? Are teachers not allowed to admit they're wrong?   WHO. LEFT. PARENTS. IN. CHARGE?  Somebody had better have the answers.  Big announcement: Nina's mom is going to marry Dhiraj! He's not the wicked stepfather by any stretch of the imagination. He's much, much worse. He's a rapper! And a bad one at that. And his rapper name is Dhiraj Fist aka Diddy Blood. Case rested. After all, dumb is the new wicked.  Nina must stop this catastrophe, but she's going to need co-conspirators. With her sister Nikki, who seems to keep disappearing mysteriously, and her mother's best friend, Ashwin Uncle, who's now fighting with her mother, Nina must find a way to save her favourite grownup from making a really bad decision. Because, really, grownups just can't be trusted to make the best life choices.  As sweet as it is funny, Nina the Philosopher is a brilliant, witty, thought-provoking series that tells the story of a modern-day fairy tale: a single mother and her two wonderful, hilariously angst-ridden daughters. It's the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Without a wimp. Or a diary.  The book is beautifully designed and illustrated by a remarkably talented new artist, Priyanka Shyam.

Review:

I have been reading Judy since she was just a blogger and am one of her fans. No, that doesn't mean I am biased. I'd loved Two Fates but didn't like Sophie Says that much. So here I have her first book for young adults and let me be frank, this is Judy's forte. 

How to stop your grownup from making bad decisions is a collection of excerpts from Nina's diary. Oh wait! Nina is a blogger. Yes, she's cool that way. Your average, over-thinking pre-teen who wants to do the right things in their literal sense but is totally harassed by the grow-ups in her life. The eleven year old, in her own world, sees the rest of the world as it should be seen - where elders say something yet do something else, don't get the basics of life and can make the silliest of decisions. 

Younger daughter to a single mother, she feels she is her mother's mother at times and her sister Nikki ... well, let's not talk about Nikki *rolls eyes*. Then there are her grandparents who are much fun and there is Ashwin uncle who is the most fun to be. Her mother is dating someone who goes by the name Diddy Blood and fancies himself to be a rapper. If a rapper as her mom's boyfriend wasn't enough, the man had a seven year old son Polka Dot who was sent to this world just to annoy Nina, one would think.

Judy has got the essence of a pre-teen's mind to a T. Characters are well-defined and so easy to relate to - specially, Nina. Also, it doesn't matter how old you are, you will relate to Nina's joys, confusions and frustrations with the elders in her life. 

I have read quite a few books for young adults by Indian as well as foreign authors, over the last year and I have no qualms in admitting I found 'most' of them disappointing. Everyone is trying to ape The Twilight. Whatever for? Give a pre-teen a story about pre-teens living normal lives. A twelve-year-old me would have lapped this book up and waited for more. Even now, I lapped it up over a few hours and yes, am waiting for more similar books from Judy.

I almost forgot to add, I loved the cover design. 

Rating: *****/5

[This was an author request review. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Monday, January 19, 2015

#BookReview : Dancing With Demons by Nidhie Sharma

On the jacket:


Karan Pratap Singh is on the brink of winning the Amateur Boxing Championship, when in a moment, he loses it all. His fall from glory seems fuelled by ruthless arrogance and an out-of-control anger management problem. That, however is just symptomatic of a deeper issue. Buried under layers of his fractured subconscious lies a childhood secret he cannot come to terms with.  Sonia Kapoor is a beautiful, volatile young woman with a secret that torments her at night but a secret that she feels no guilt for.  When fate throws Karan and Sonia together in Mumbai, their personal demons and pasts collide and stir up trouble in their fragile and uncertain present. But, is redemption possible without forgiveness?  Dancing with Demons is a fast-paced action drama of love, loss and resurrection.

Review:

Dancing with Demons is basically a sportsman's love story. The cover does justice to it, if you look at it closely. Another amazing thing about this book is that, I heard it's being made into a motion picture? 

Karan is expected to be the next best thing in the world of boxing, Karan is all set for the biggest match of his life. Things go wrong and not only does he lose the match, but also faces a ban of four years. Needless to say, Karan is shattered and so is his coach Jerry, who is more like a father figure to Karan.

Karan meets Sonia who seems to have turned up in Mumbai the same fateful night that he lost his match and come to stay in his neighbourhood. Sonia has a past she is hiding and Karan is fighting his own demons. 

Two people fighting their demons are brought together by fate and one day, both decide to faight their respective demons. Love does bloom in between them but at the cost of what? Can their kill their demons successfully?

The story line is interesting but for me it sort of dragged. The author has done a good job in framing the plot and the characters but it could have been done in fewer pages, I think. Also, the pace could have been quicker. 


Rating: ***/5

#BookReview: The Perfect Groom by Sumeetha Manikandan

On the jacket:


Very little has gone right in Nithya’s young life. So, when a proposal from a young, handsome NRI comes along, her mother jumps at the opportunity and packs her daughter off to the US with her perfect groom.  Nithya seems to have settled in with Ashok, ostensibly happy, if as yet childless, in her new life. When an old flame comes back into her life, however, the cracks in her perfect marriage begin to show… 

Review:

Most love stories begin..well, at the beginning. Two people meet, sense attraction, deny it, cannot, they give up, and fall in love. The Perfect Groom doesn't have any of your regular love stories.

This story is about Nithya, now living in the US with a man she married in an arranged marriage. Back home, she has a mother and sister. Nithya's husband Ashok is distant and their relationship is not one per cent of what regular married people are. Manikandan has manintaned an air of mystery around Ashok's behavior. MArried for three years, Nithya is expected to bear a child. This story has everything - your regular dramatic and mean mother-in-law, a struggling mother, a doting sister, a mysterious husband, gossipy relatives and a regular woman trying to stay strong.

To everyone, Nithya's life is perfect but in real, it's hollow and she is waiting for her own sister to get married so that she could get out of this sham. There where is the love?

It comes from where Nithya least expected it to, from her past. I do not want to divulge of give you even a peak into the story because I really want you to read this one. I read it in one sitting, I had to know what happened in the next page, and the next, and the next...

Rating: *****/5

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

#BookReview: Pyar aur Poetry by Roopa Menon

On the jacket:


College beauty Arundhati Basu would rather stick her head in the proverbial oven than host this year’s Founder’s Day event with tongue-tied nerd, Nikhil Menon. Compared to the brilliant but elusive poet, D. G. Beckett, Nikhil is a green toad.  As Arundhati gets to know him, however, she finds herself oddly drawn to the shy geek, and he, in turn, grows in confidence as he spends more time with her. His hopes for a lasting relationship with Arundhati seemed to be within his reach.  If only she could forget D. G. Beckett!

Review:

Pyaar Aur Poetry is a kind of story I read after a long, long time. Yes, opposites meet and sparks fly, but the treatment given to the plot makes hearts dance in one's heart. 

A story about typical SoBo pretentious snob, Arundhati Basu and awkward, toungue-tied Nikhil Menon but the interesting angle is thrown in my the very mysterious and brilliant poet D G Beckett, who no one really knows about. Arundhati and Nikhil are absolute opposites but by a sadistic twist of fate (or so it seems), there are thrown together and need to work as a team.

When they get to know each other, Arundhati and Nikhil seem to be falling for each other. But! D G Beckett rules Arundhati's mind and curiosity. So what happens? Does Arundhati find out who this mysterious man is? Does she leave Nikhil for this man who had invoked the emotions in her that she didn't knew existed?


A very well-scripted tale of love, Menon has proved she is an author to look out for. The characters are very well-crafted and people one can easily identify with. A lovely story.

Rating: ****/5

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


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