Monday, December 31, 2012

Read more, write more, love more, mingle more ...

2013 is here. Night has crept into a brand new day. The calendar says it's a new year, but for now, I'l treat it as a new day only. It'l be a new year for me, when I start sharing concrete progress in this section.

I had wanted to usher it without the constant frown I've had on my face of late, but that didn't happen. To cut a long story short, the frown is still there. But to give myself some credit, I have identified it's there, before an onlooker told me and I am trying to erase the creases. This time I don't want to depend on others to erase them, however kind they are.

So, some things I begin on now would be:

* Control food intake: I don't have a huge diet, I eat like a bird actually. I am not even fond of eating. It's just that when I do eat, I eat wrong. Junk food, outside food, chocolates, cold drinks - I cannot give them up. I'l restrict their intake to once a month. 
This has been planned repeatedly but never achieved. To be frank I was never attentive enough to take this through. As of now, I want to, so let me be positive and think I will!


HOLD IT! Let me talk about my achievement first! For someone who cannot let go of addictions, I have been alcohol free since September 16, 2012. 
That's three and a half months. This was my unplanned birthday resolution and again, I intend to keep this one. So, well, yeay for me!
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Read more, write more, love more, mingle more, be more creative. In short live more ~ that's what I hope to give to 2013. In turn, all I would want is no unpleasant surprises. But that's easier said than done. Nevertheless, A very Happy New Year to you,if you are reading this. Stay safe, strong and healthy


From the book Be Happy by Monica Sheehan





Bucket List 2013

I'l be upfront about this. I have already made my bucket list for life. But that's for life and each point in it has a buffer period of a few year, viz, I'l achieve such and such by the time I am 30, and such and such by the time I am 35.

But, there are some smaller yet equally worthwhile accomplishments I wish to make in 2013. Writing them in the journal would only mean that ~ writing. I won't be turning back the pages, would I? I would be opening my blog page everyday, though!

Smart? Let's see how much! I won't be going from 10 to 1, 'coz, well coz I don't like downward order. Also, *if* and *when* I achieve any of these goals, I shall be updating the details on this page. I will also try and post updates from time to time, on certain resolutions which will need daily attention!



1. Travel more. January looks promising. There are some travel destinations I have a mind-block against; I hope to throw caution to the winds and just visit these places.

2. Medicines: I forget to take them. I have friends reminding me almost everyday, the husband calling up at meal times to remind ... but I forget. The sane side of my head keeps badgering me, I am only delaying getting better. But. I forget! Need. To. Start. Taking. All. Medicines. Regularly.

3. The above has to lead to this. Sort my health. I complete three years of *bad health* on January 4, and that is when all this needs to end. Yes, I am giving myself 10 days of buffer time to mope as much as I want. Medicines have led to weight gain which in turn has pushed me to severe depression. I am out of the depression by about 25%, I need to pull my worth and be positive. I walked into this alone, I will pull myself out on my own. Family and well-wishers can only support.

4. Be more social. Poor health and depression have pushed me into being asocial. The only people I communicate with every single day are Maa, Sankalp  and Abhay. I mostly don't receive calls and call back only when the mood allows. This needs to be changed. I need to stop pushing people away.

5. Read more. I'd read very less between 2009-half of 2012. In the second half of 2012, I picked momentum. In 2013, I want to read much much more, and a lot of Indian authors. I have a mind block about new age Indian authors, I wish to read and discover some excellent Indian authors.

6. Be less timid. And not let people walk all over my sentiments.

7. Prepare for 2014 Mumbai Marathon. I had been meaning to do this for 2012 and 2013, but obviously it didn't happen. Even if I manage only the dream run, I want to participate and finish.

8. Write more. Not just book reviews, for paid assignments and/or in the journal. I wish to indulge more in creative writing for self. The writer's block has comfortably stretched itself over 3 years; this is where it needs to end.

9. Learn a new musical instrument and a new dance form. I am not yet sure which ones, will work on them soon and will probably start working on them from February.

10. Get over my road fear and drive with confidence. This will be to overcome my most major mind block.

And, read more blogs. I have already begun on that, and in the next one week, I have a whole lot of amazing blogs sidelined to read and enjoy! :-)

Phew!! All the best to ME!!

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PROJECT52

So from tomorrow I begin PROJECT52 with a set of marathon bloggers. I shall  be uploading one post a week. This will be *other* than the regular book reviews I write or topics I cover under the other pages/labels.


Indian Quills Reading Challenge 2013

Come 2013 and I shall be reading more Indian authors. Reason? 

* To remove my mind block, that most new age Indian authors don't know what they are writing about, and, 

* Of late, I have read quite a few Indian authors and was pleasantly surprised. It's evident that there are some good talents but their names get hidden amidst the already famous names. I plan to dig deep and find these treasures, read them, review their books here and tell other readers about them!

I shall be doing this as a part of the Indian Quills Reading Challenge 2013. Come, join us! 


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Book Review: The Valmiki Syndrome by Ashok K Banker

On the jacket: 

Maxing our career is our ‘dharma’ in this age of Kali. But at what cost? Working parents don’t see enough of their children, couples barely spend time with each other, young men and women become strangers to their families and friends. And here’s the irony–most of us mention our families and loved ones as the main reason for why we strive towards success, without realizing that we stand to lose them in this very quest. So how do we strike a balance between our careers and our families? In his first major work of non-fiction, bestselling author Ashok K. Banker goes back to Puranic sources to address this question. He writes of Ratnakaran the bandit, who made a living out of killing and looting to support his family, and his transformation into Valmiki, the sage. Using his story and contemporary stories from today, he shows us how they contain the answers to today’s most pressing issue: how to prioritize, manage, and enhance our personal as well as professional lives. Insightful, thought-provoking, and utterly inspiring, The Valmiki Syndrome is a map to the most elusive treasure of modern existence–personal fulfilment.

Review:

The Valmiki Syndrome is neither fiction, not mythological. 
There are three stories in the book, that go side by side, yet, they are only used as examples to answer the age old questions we are haunted with ~ Who am I?, What do I want? and How do I become that person?.

Through different stories and by citing examples of Buddha, Banker tried to urge us to ask questions that are important. He stresses that if we don;t ask question, we would never move ahead towards change.

Banker has mentioned in the very begining that the book is a not self-help, which I agree with. He has tried to create scenarios and described situations, leaving it up to us how we take them forward once we are done reading the book. He has inserted his own views, which I personally feel he could have avoided, and let the stories do the talking till the end.

My rating: ***/5


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

Monday, December 24, 2012

Book Review: The Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmin Khadra

On the jacket:

“Yasmina Khadra may well be the most powerful and serious writer in French since his Algerian compatriot Albert Camus.” —Philadelphia Inquirer 

The third novel in Yasmina Khadra’s bestselling trilogy about Islamic fundamentalism brings readers into Baghdad.

Forced to leave the University of Baghdad when the Americans invade Iraq, a young man from a small desert village returns home, where he witnesses three events that transform him. First, American soldiers at a checkpoint kill the sweet and beloved “village idiot.” Several days later, an American plane bombs a wedding on the outskirts of the village. And then one night, soldiers looking for terrorists come to the young man’s own home and humiliate his father in full view of the terrified family. Consumed by the desire to avenge this unspeakable act, the youth leaves the village for the city. 

Baghdad is going up in flames. The young man searches for a place to stay before being taken in by a radical group and convincing its members that he is willing to do anything to help their cause. After proving his mettle by participating in several attacks, he is sent to Beirut to undertake a super-secret mission that will take him to London. As the time to board the plane nears, he struggles to reconcile his mission with his moral principles.

A masterful and chilling look at violence and its effects on ordinary people, The Sirens of Baghdad probes situations few writers dare examine. Powerfully written like Khadra’s previous novels, it explores the depths of human nature and shows that, even in the most horrific circumstances, good can prevail.

Review:

This is not a leisure read, but a nameless character's version of the Muslim fundamentalist terrorism. Set in a small village Iraqui Bedouin, this character goes to Baghdad to study in university, but war breaks out and he is forced to got back to his village.

The book is an eye-opener of sorts. There are so many aspects of life in different countries we are unaware of and The Sirens of Baghdad reveals a lot.


We all *know* that the US army's invasion in a few countries habe caused major damage, but how much! The emotional damage is bigger than the physical and visible damage. The topic of the book is sensitive, and the author has not tried to influence the reader in any way. At no point will you feel inclined to belive that one side of the warriors were wrong. The story is neutral recount. 

There was this quote in The Sirens of Baghdad where the Imam concludes his lesson with, "It's not a question of washing your bodies, but your souls, young men. If you're rotten inside, neither rivers no oceans will suffice to make you clean." Deep, and can generate so many meanings.

All in all, The Sirens of Baghdad is a sensitive, heart-touching and well-written book.

My rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: The Rose Grower by Michelle De Krester

On the jacket:

Writing with poignancy and mesmerizing detail, Michelle de Kretser has penned a haunting tale set against the madness of the French Revolution -- a wistful, elegantly rendered novel of unrequited love and personal triumph in a world gone tragically awry.


The 1789 storming of the Bastille has brought France to the brink of revolution. Yet in the serene heart of the French province of Gascony, little has changed in a hundred years -- and the events in Paris seem but a distant thunder. 

Indeed, the dramatic crash landing of American artist and amateur balloonist Stephen Fletcher sparks far more excitement. Stephen lands in the pastoral world of a magistrate and his three daughters -- ethereal Claire, pert and precocious Mathilde, and plain, sensible Sophie, who lovingly tends her rose garden as she simmers with unfulfilled longings.

As the revolution brings murder, terror, and fear into the remote Gascon countryside, Stephen finds himself enchanted by the angelic Claire. Yet he is also strangely drawn to Sophie, whose courage and compassion sustain them all, from her family to the quixotic, tormented physician who silently adores her. And even as Sophie keeps a tender secret of her own, she works toward realizing yet another dream: the miracle of an original repeat-flowering crimson rose -- a hopeful symbol of an unblighted future.

Review:

This was  my first read by Michelle De Krester. But, what a beautiful book! A light read, The Rose Grower takes one to a small French town, at a time after the French Revolution. Awesome characterization and narrative, The Rose Grower was immersing.

A story about a family dragged into the turmoil of the Revolution, and it's daughter Sophie, who wants to grow a special rose. Reading it, I kept feeling I was looking at a picture and not really reading a book. Yes, one can say that the author has used words like a brush!

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: I'm not stressed by Deanne Panday

On the jacket:

Are you stressed? The workplace has become increasingly competitive, family life has its never-ending complications, and when you step outside, you have to deal with heavy traffic, aggression, and massive pollution. No wonder that you’re tense and agitated, have hyper reflexes and blood pressure that’s higher than the midday sun. But you’re not alone. Fifty percent of Indian professionals suffer from stress with stress-related diseases from depression to lack of fertility drastically on the rise. In I’m Not Stressed, Deanne Panday, one of the country’s leading health and fitness experts, shares with you her secrets to tackle this looming lifestyle problem. She tells you what stress really means, how to know when you have a serious case of it, and most importantly how to deal with it through a simple plan of diet, exercise, sleep, meditation, and breathing. With advice from leading psychiatrists, cardiologists, endocrinologists, and celebrities who have to deal with high-level stress, I’m Not Stressed is your mantra for enduring health and happiness.

Review:

One of the USPs for this book is a foreword by Shah Rukh Khan. Sorry to say, it clearly looks ghost written by a woman, unless SRK writes and thinks like a woman. And to tell you the truth, the foreword turned me off and kept the book aside while I read two other books. Coming back to it, I dived straight into the book. After all, why judge a book by it's foreword!

We all know or have heard of Deanne Panday (well, a lot of us have) and as a reader, I would trust her to give me instructions on a healthy life, body and mind. I would. I'm not stressed is one of the many books that have been published of late, to guide us into a healthy lifestyle. And like a lot of other books, this is also a sincere attempt. 

Deanne stresses a lot on Yoga and has also extensively described the asanas. Yoga, meditation, right breathing, diet, exercise and sleep are what she stresses on and if we sit back, think, and patiently follow ~ slowly and steadily, a healthy mind and body can be achieved.

My rating: 3.5/4
[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review: Romancing With Life: An Autobiography by Dev Anand

On the jacket:


Charming and sometimes seemingly routing to be an escapist, like the man himself, Romancing With Life: An Autobiography by Dev Anand reveals his larger than life perception of himself. With characteristic abandon, he makes light of his failures while focusing with pride and joy on his achievements. In all seriousness, he makes quaint statements opining that his failed Awaal Number is similar to Lagaan, or that his film Censor ought to have been picked for the Oscar.

Dev Anand acknowledges, candidly and without any sadness or resentment, his obsession with Zeenat Aman and disappointment at her lack of reciprocation. His unsuccessful love affair with Suraya is replayed in depth, disclosing an intense setback that he optimistically turned into a strengthening experience. He alludes to several of his heroines whose rise to glory was scripted by him and recaptures his time with Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, and Dilip Kumar.

He talks about how he engineered the rise of a new wave in cinema with his brother Chetan Anand, and refers to his film Guide with great pride, while reminiscing on how the critics of his time had predicted a dismal reception for the movie.

Portraying himself as an eternal romantic who longs for love and adulation, he floods his memoir with anecdotes of his encounters with women across the world and his unending quest for young starlets. Not bound by a chronological format, the book enables the reader to pick and enjoy incidents from any part of its contents.

Romancing With Life: An Autobiography was released in 2007. This edition was published in 2011.

Review:

I am currently reading this book for the second time, and this speaks a lot for the book as normally, I don't re-read books. From page 1, Romancing With Life  is a beautifully written book. 

Every page, every description, every incident mentioned is a treasure. Having idolised an evergreen actor, reading about the real him was sheer pleasure. You read through a couple of pages and you will know, it's not ghost written like other autobiographies mostly are. It's an out and out Dev Anand masterpiece from the beginning to an end. It takes immense guts to bare your real life and the real you, with all the flaws and failures for you fans to judge you by. Romancing With Life tells you all, have a read!

My rating: ****/5

[This is a personal review]

Book Review: Open by Andre Agassi

On the jacket: 


From Andre Agassi, one of the most beloved athletes in history and one of the most gifted men ever to step onto a tennis court, a beautiful, haunting autobiography.

Agassi’s incredibly rigorous training begins when he is just a child. By the age of thirteen, he is banished to a Florida tennis camp that feels like a prison camp. Lonely, scared, a ninth-grade dropout, he rebels in ways that will soon make him a 1980s icon. He dyes his hair, pierces his ears, dresses like a punk rocker. By the time he turns pro at sixteen, his new look promises to change tennis forever, as does his lightning-fast return. 

And yet, despite his raw talent, he struggles early on. We feel his confusion as he loses to the world’s best, his greater confusion as he starts to win. After stumbling in three Grand Slam finals, Agassi shocks the world, and himself, by capturing the 1992 Wimbledon. Overnight he becomes a fan favorite and a media target.

Agassi brings a near-photographic memory to every pivotal match and every relationship. Never before has the inner game of tennis and the outer game of fame been so precisely limned. Alongside vivid portraits of rivals from several generations—Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer—Agassi gives unstinting accounts of his brief time with Barbra Streisand and his doomed marriage to Brooke Shields. He reveals a shattering loss of confidence. And he recounts his spectacular resurrection, a comeback climaxing with his epic run at the 1999 French Open and his march to become the oldest man ever ranked number one.

In clear, taut prose, Agassi evokes his loyal brother, his wise coach, his gentle trainer, all the people who help him regain his balance and find love at last with Stefanie Graf. Inspired by her quiet strength, he fights through crippling pain from a deteriorating spine to remain a dangerous opponent in the twenty-first and final year of his career. Entering his last tournament in 2006, he’s hailed for completing a stunning metamorphosis, from nonconformist to elder statesman, from dropout to education advocate. And still he’s not done. At a U.S. Open for the ages, he makes a courageous last stand, then delivers one of the most stirring farewells ever heard in a sporting arena.

With its breakneck tempo and raw candor, Open will be read and cherished for years. A treat for ardent fans, it will also captivate readers who know nothing about tennis. Like Agassi’s game, it sets a new standard for grace, style, speed, and power.

Review:

I enjoying watching Tennis because, my father used to. Later, my best friend did and now my husband does. Watching Tennis Grand Slams has become a natural way of life, year after year. I understand the game a bit, but more than following the rules, I enjoy the experience. what tops my bucket list is watching all the Grand Slams' final matches at least once!!

My father had spent more than half his life in Germany until before I was born and my ties with the country are very strong. My father wanted to name me Steffi, but he couldn't so he would call me Steffi. Agassi's, Becker's and Steffi's careers have been closely followed on our dinner table. Like my father, my husband too is a big fan of these legends. So getting Agassi's autobiography in hand was too tempting to resist. 

I got Open as one of the birthday gifts for my husband and the review I am about to write is his impression, not mine. I wanted a review on this book, but he refused to write saying I can write it better ... so here is the review, his views in my words!

Sankalp's review of Open:

Having finished reading Open last night, the first thought that came in my mind was, why did I read this so late? I am not much of a fiction reader, autobiographies are what always interest me. How someone like you and me, goes on to become extraordinary is always inspirational. Unlike stories woven from imagination, an autobiography gives me facts, problems and how a mere mortal faced them successfully. 

I have been following Tennis matches since as long as I can remember. I idolise some of the Tennis stalwarts and Agassi is one of them. Agassi's autobiography is not just about one man's life, it involves so many other facets! Apart from knowing the real person behind the image, it was interesting to know how he goofed up in life, in big decisions, in marriage and even in simple things like dating. Shows that behind the steel like grit, is a confused person. So, where does the grit come from? How was the book developed? 

Agassi is a very witty man, and all through the pages of Open, I would laugh out loud at his anecdotes. And after reading the book, I appreciate Agassi more as a person. There have been times when I wished I had more time, and could read more pages in a day.

Not just as a tennis lover, I would suggest everyone should read Open. The book is enjoyable, informative and inspirational.

Rating: *****/5

[This is a personal book review.]

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Review: Desperate in Dubai by Ameera Al Hakawati

On the jacket:


Oozing with men, money, and Maseratis, Dubai is the ultimate playground for the woman who knows her Louboutins from her Louis Vuittons. But for some, there's a lot more at stake than a Hermes Birkin. Leila has been in search of a wealthy husband for over a decade. Nadia moves to Dubai to support her husband s career, only to have her sacrifices thrown in her face. 

Sugar escapes the UK in an attempt to escape her past. Lady Luxe, the rebellious Emirati heiress, scoffs at everything her culture holds sacred. Until the day her double life starts unravelling at the seams. Set against a backdrop of luxury hotels and manmade islands, Desperate in Dubai tells the tale of four desperate women as they struggle to find truth, love, and themselves.

Review:

I am a fan of Jean Sasson's books which are set in the middle east. I picked up Desperate in Dubai, thinking it is on the same line.

It would be wrong to say that Desperate in Dubai didn't disappoint me. The story is slow and it seemed like a loosely-scripted version of Desperate Housewives. 

The story revolves around four women in Dubai, their frustrations, their sadness, and their happinesses. The characters do get confusing at times because all four lives are entwined. The book throws lives of Emiratis; i.e. the people living in UAE/Dubai. The ease with which one of the girls, Lady Luxe, shifts between a night slut to a day time coy Muslim girl is a little hard to digest. Again, what kind of a name is Lady Luxe? Doesn't fit in to a Muslim family at all.

I'd heard that Depserate in Dubai was banned and then re-banned in Dubai. Seriously, it's not that sensational either. None of the women have any ambition than maybe having multiple partners, finding a rich groom or saving their marriage. No way does it depict a modern women in real sense. For women who lead comparatively restricted lives, one would have thought that they yearn for a real life.

Good for maybe an in-flight read, Desperate in Dubai didn't really do much for me.

Rating: ***/5

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



Indian Quills Reading Challenge 2013

Ok!!

This is a seriously interesting reading challenge by Random House India and The Tales Pensive. 

Know more about the blog here.


The deal is that we are going to read as many Indian authors in the year 2013, as possible. My attempt would be of 30 books in the period of January 1, 2013 to December 21, 2013. I shall also be reviewing them in this blog.

Why don't you jump in to!!


Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

On the jacket:


Knopf Canada is proud to welcome this bestselling, Pulitzer Prize—winning author with eight dazzling stories that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life. 

In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father who carefully tends her garden–where she later unearths evidence of a love affair he is keeping to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a couple’s romantic getaway weekend takes a dark turn at a party that lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a woman eager to give her younger brother the perfect childhood she never had is overwhelmed by guilt, anguish and anger when his alcoholism threatens her family. And in “Hema and Kaushik,” a trio of linked stories–a luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love and fate–we follow the lives of a girl and boy who, one fateful winter, share a house in Massachusetts. They travel from innocence to experience on separate, sometimes painful paths, until destiny brings them together again years later in Rome. 

Unaccustomed Earth is rich with the author’s signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is the work of a writer at the peak of her powers. 

Review:

I am not even sure if I should be reviewing this book. I mean, if you have read Lahiri before, and I tell you Unaccustomed Earth is crap, it's not like you are going to believe me, are you? Well, then why bother to make up things, instead get to the point. 

Unaccustomed Earth is like any other book by Lahiri. Rustic, home bound, simple, middle class and something all of us can identify with at certain levels. The book is a set of short stories; and I absolutely love them. What a novelist says in about 300 pages, a short story writer says in about 10-12 pages. The challenge to deliver the same amount of emotions and events in a short story is demanding, and very few authors meet it with finesse. 

Lahiri has proved her eloquence as an established writer, repeatedly, and with Unaccustomed Earth, as well, she does justice to her reputation. The book is divided into two sections. Section One has five short stories: Unaccustomed Earth, Hell-Heaven, A Choice of Accommodations, Only Goodness and Nobody's Business. Section II has three short stories: Once in a Life Times, Year's End and Going Ashore, revolving around Hema and Kaushik.

On the flipside, the book indicates that Lahiri is more comfortable writing about her comfort zone, Bengali Americans. Themes do seem repetitive. Lahiri's writing is smooth, from the heart and for the pravasi Bengali in me, her stories have a lot to identify with.

My rating: ****/5

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review: Heirs of Catriona by Anusha Subramanian

On the jacket:



In a land like no other on Earth, deadly creatures from forgotten myths are coming alive...

Sara and Crystal are ordinary teenagers. Or so they think, until one day, their world is turned upside down when they learn that they are princesses of the magical land of Catriona. Their mothers, the rightful rulers of Catriona, are being held prisoner by Merissa, the wicked queen. Sara and Crystal must help rescue their mothers, and to do this, they have to journey to a land that does not appear on any known map.

Thrown headlong into the world of vengeful, manioulative gods and deadly sorcerers, the two girls learn the art of magical warfare. But will that be enough to counter the evil unleashed by Merissa and her protector, Loki?

Review:

I am such a sceptic reader, yet for a change, when I picked up Anusha's book, I was slightly relaxed, because she comes for a family of established authors. For one, she would have been guided well, and secondly, a good author will never recommend a mediocre author, even if related.

So, yes, I got the chance to read Heirs of Catriona, thanks to Anusha's father and author Ravi Subramanian. I am already a fan of his works, so reading Anusha's work was intriguing.

Now about the book and Anusha's first attempt. Personally, I enjoyed the book. I was reminded of when I was about 12, gorging on as many book as I could, school schedule permitting and how I would pen down short stories with my own imagination. My characters used to be sleuths like the Five Find Outers. 

As always, I won't talk much about the story. The summary is above for you to read, and for the rest, you'll need to read the book! Heirs of Catriona is a reflection of Anusha's vivid imagination, crisp story telling skills and her good language skills. However, there is a lot of scope for improvement. Character building needed a bit more attention. 

You might find faint impressions of books you've read earlier (might, not necessarily), but hey, she is 12 and it's her first book! It's a positive book, about hope and winning. Heirs of Catriona won over the child in me, I suggest you introduce it to the child in you as well!

More than liking Heirs of Catriona, what I noticed and liked was that there is a promise of much better work, and more stories for us to read. More innovative plots, and no shift to chiclit is what I am hoping for!

My rating: 4/5

[This review is an author request, however, the views are my own.]

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review: A Mercy by Toni Morrison

On the jacket:



A powerful tragedy distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the Nobel Prize–winning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.

In the 1680s the slave trade was still in its infancy. In the Americas, virulent religious and class divisions, prejudice and oppression were rife, providing the fertile soil in which slavery and race hatred were planted and took root.

Jacob is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh north. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, “with the hands of a slave and the feet of a Portuguese lady.” Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master’s house, but later from a handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved.

There are other voices: Lina, whose tribe was decimated by smallpox; their mistress, Rebekka, herself a victim of religious intolerance back in England; Sorrow, a strange girl who’s spent her early years at sea; and finally the devastating voice of Florens’ mother. These are all men and women inventing themselves in the wilderness.

A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and of a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.

Acts of mercy may have unforeseen consequences.

Review:

I am a fan of Morrison's since college and was really eager to read A Mercy, to tell you the truth. 

The beginning might seem a little slow, specially if you are reading for the first time. I old American English, Morrison has spun the tale of brilliance. Slavery/racism is a sensitive topic, has been and shall be. To write about it, bravo!

We've all read about slavery, as depicted and reported by history books. Here is a tale in words of a young child. Talking more will just act as spoilers, if you are into serious reading, just pick a Morrison book and read!

Review: *****/5

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

Book Review: The Beauty Diet by Shonali Sabherwal



On the jacket:


Can eating make you look good? Yes, it’s true. Diet provides nutrition but also makes you look beautiful by helping you lose weight, getting a proportionate body, making your skin glow and your hair and eyes shine. In The Beauty Diet, celebrity dietician Shonali Sabherwal, whose clients include Katrina Kaif, Neha Dhupia, Esha Deol, Hema Malini, Jacqueline Fernandez, Chitrangadha Singh, Shekhar Kapur, and Kabir Bedi among others, offers easy-to-follow and tried-and-tested diet advice for women of all ages to look younger and more stunning. She shows you how to: • do a basic detox to cleanse the body • make your skin glow, your hair shiny, and your teeth healthy • tuck that rebellious tummy in • get rid of fat thighs and flabby arms • eat to look younger • change your mood with the right food With diet charts, recipes, cooking techniques, illustrations, real life stories, and celeb experiences, The Beauty Diet redefines the purpose and formulas of eating. So get ready to welcome the fab new you!

Review:

I have two contradictory things to say about this book ~ a) it's complicated, and, b) it's very informative.

I know, that's misleading, but that's how it is. Initially, when I started reading the book, I was bored. A lot of dietician talk which wasn't making a lot of sense to me, and experience examples of film stars who are thin and fit anyway. Such books are all over on the market.

But, what stuck my fantasy was where Shonali started talking about how the food that we eat (and don't) affect our face, hair, pimples, wrinkles everything.  I never knew pimples are of so many categories and have different reasons causing them! This is where the book gets interesting.

There are a bunch of meal plans and recipes, and frankly you can follow them to the T only if you live in one of the metros.

Yet, have a read, who knows what you might pick up from Shonali's book, and it might work for your health and body!

Rating: ***/5

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

Book Review: Beating the Blues by Seema Hingorrany

On the jacket:


A comprehensive guide to keeping depression at bay


  • Can’t sleep soundly?
  • Don’t feel like stepping out of the house?
  • Having suicidal thoughts?

You might be depressed and don’t know it yet. According to a WHO study, a mindboggling 35.9 percent of India suffers from Major Depressive Episodes (MDE). Yet depression remains a much evaded topic, quietly brushed under the carpet by most of us. In Beating the Blues, India’s leading clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and trauma researcher Seema Hingorrany provides a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to treating depression, examining what the term really means, its signs, causes, and symptoms. The book will equip you with:

  • Easy-to-follow self-help strategies and result-oriented solutions
  • Ways of preventing a depression relapse
  • Everyday examples, statistics, and interesting case-studies
  • Workbooks designed for Seema’s clients
  • With clients ranging from celebrities and models to teenagers, married couples, and children, Seema decodes depression for you. Informative and user-friendly, with a foreword by Indu Shahani, the Sheriff of Mumbai, Beating the Blues is an invaluable guide for those who want to deal with depression but don’t know how.
Review:

The moment I read the first page of this book, I froze and kept it aside. An hour later, I asked my husband to read it.  He had a similar reaction. It seemed like the book was being written about me.

I know this might sound dramatic, and no, the book didn't talk about my experiences, but it did a lot. I have been fighting major depression (bipolar disorder) since January 2010, and reading Beating the Blues was like looking at the mirror at many points. 

Frankly, as a reader, I cannot tell you how medically informative Beating the Blues is, but for a reader, it is a lot. It's something I would really advice everyone reads; not just someone going through depression, but others too. Mostly, it's people around the depressed people who do not identify the problem and dismiss it as nothing, pushing the depressed person further into the dark tunnel.

You'd be amazed to know that:
  • Depression is the common cold of mental illnesses.
  • Depression is as real as any other disease.
  • Telling the depressed person to just snap out of it, or to keep themselves occupied, is not the solution.
  • Be kind to the depressed, you might be pushing them into more complications.
  • Depression leads to physical ailments; in fact it's one of the primary causes.
There are so many more things we need to know about depression, whether we are ourselves depressed or not. 

Rating: *****/5


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


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Book Review: She writes, a collection of short stories


On the jacket:



Every woman has a story to tell Random House India, in collaboration with MSN, presents an extraordinary collection of stories from twelve talented women writers across the country—a woman trapped in a stifling marriage makes a shocking discovery, a repressed memory is suddenly brought back by a dead tree, a self-styled nun finds unlikely love in a Tibetan monastery. Rich and deeply evocative, She Writes is a celebration of some of the most exciting writing talent in our country. Winner names: • Anisha Bhaduri • Geeta Sundar • Sheela Jaywant • Prarthana Rao • Aprameya Manthena • Chitralekha • Belinder Dhanoa • Yishey Doma • Santana Pathak • Amrita Saikia • Jyotsna Jha • Shreya Manjunath

ISBN  : 9788184001242
Binding : Paperback
Price   : 299
Imprint : Random House India
Format : B format
Subject : General & Literary Fiction
Extent : 208


Review:

She Writes has an introduction by author Preeti Shenoy and seriously speaking, that was the most interesting read in the entire book. 

I understand that the stories are by authors who won amongst thousands of applicants. But, the stories are seriously, not great. The first story by Anushka Bhaduri was nice, it was an interesting read. However, the protagonists name was spelt as Konika as well as Konica in different sections of the story.

After that the reading experience goes downhill. Some stories don't make no sense at all, and some, actually indicate the author's intent of a very nice plot, but are poorly written. In The Tourist, it made no sense why Saurav cheated on the protagonist, the story was very loosely written. Similarly in  A Tale of Destiny, the characters and the situations were not formed properly, nothing was making sense.

What I felt while reading Revelation was that the author has an excellent plan in mind, but something went wrong while putting it on paper and reader experience was hampered. 

I had seriously expected a better set of reads, but each story kept disappointing so much that finishing the book became a chore. 

Rating: **/5

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Cat O' Nine Tales by Jeffery Archer

On the jacket:



Cat o'Nine Tales is the fifth collection of irresistible short stories from the master storyteller. Ingeniously plotted, with richly drawn characters and Jeffrey Archer's trademark of deliciously unexpected conclusions, this new collection has the added bonus of thirteen charming illustrations by the internationally acclaimed artist Ronald Searle.
Some of these twelve stories were inspired by the two years Jeffrey Archer spent in prison, including the story of a company chairman who tries to poison his wife while on a trip to St. Petersburg---with unexpected consequences. "The Red King" is a tale about a con man who discovers that an English lord requires one more chess piece to complete a set that would be worth a fortune. In another tale of deception, "The Commissioner," a Bombay con artist ends up in the morgue after he uses the police chief as bait in his latest scam. "The Perfect Murder" reveals how a convict manages to remove an old enemy while he's locked up in jail, and then set up two prison officers as his alibi. In "Charity Begins at Home," an accountant realizes he has achieved nothing in his life, and sets out to make a fortune before he retires. And then there is Archer's favorite, "In the Eye of the Beholder," in which a handsome star athlete falls in love with a three-hundred-pound woman . . . who happens to be the ninth-richest woman in Italy. 

Jeffrey Archer is the only author to have topped international bestseller lists with his fiction, nonfiction, and short stories. Cat o'Nine Tales is Archer at his best: witty, poignant, sad, surprising, and unforgettable.

Review:

What do I say, I shouldn't even be reviewing an Archer book, neither should you be reading a review. Why would one need a review to go buy an Archer book? Of course, it's brilliant! What makes it better is, that Cat O' Nine Tales has 12 short stories, and makes up for an excellent bedtime book. Well, I'd read one story each night, but you can read them all in one go, if you wish!

There have been a lot of brickbats thrown at Archer for having borrowed about nine of these 12 stories, from his fellow inmates, when he was in prison. But, that doesn't bring down his mannerisms of story-telling, not every inmate can produce this. 

All the 12 stories are not equally interesting, and when you begin reading, in a few, you have to be a little patient for the plot to unravel. If you have a funny bone, or rather, a witty bone, your mind is going to be challenged.

I was impressed with this rendition by Archer, let me know your views, if you have read it!

My rating: ****/5

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Books and me - ll




Austen and me

I first read Austen when I was in the XIth, a 15-year-old, reading grown up books for the first time. Alongside, I was also introduced to Daphne De Maurier and Barbara Cartland. 

Pride and Prejudice happens to be my favourite of all Austen novels. Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park come to close second. Personally, though different, I find Sense & Sensibility very similar to Pride & Prejudice. Emma, I don't like, because of the silliest reason. Emma, the protagonist was so irritating a character, she turned me of the book.

Fitzwilliam Darcy was probably one of the first introductions to the rich, successful, arrogant, and highly irresistible men, to girls of my generation. When I had read Pride & Prejudice the first time, it was a story. But a few months later, when I read it with my Literature class, it opened up new meaning. Austen delved into human psychology big time. Her books are easy reads; but only when you actually get into the lines, do you understand how humorous and sarcastic she was. A woman author, from a not-so-modern era, Austen's opinions and thoughts were extremely modern. 

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

The above sounds funny, doesn't it? Austen was not stating a fact, she was ridiculing how the society thinks. In all her books, she is seen to be pulling down beliefs and customs of the society, in guise of humour. 

I can go on and on about Austen, but I shouldn't. Firstly, I am a nobody to say anything about her, she is one of the best authors to have published her writings. Secondly, I would rather that you pick up one of her books, and see for yourself!

Book Review: Sethji by Shobhaa De

On the jacket:


Sethji is the head of the ABSP, a crucial coalition partner in the government. Shrewd, ruthless and an inveterate fighter, he is a man who refuses to play by any moral codes or lose a single battle. Easing his way is Amrita, his ravishing and aloof daughter-in-law who guards her own secrets. But when two of the country’s most powerful men team up to challenge Sethji, the wily old politican has to fight the deadliest battle of his life – a battle in which he must stake everything. The one person he is forced to trust is Amrita, a woman who gives nothing away, not even to Sethji. Exposing the dark, venal heart of Indian politics, Sethji is a powerful novel about ambition, greed – and above all trust. Gripping, revelatory and absolutely unputdownable, this is De at her dazzling best. 

Published by           Penguin Books India
Published               1 Nov 2012
ISBN                     139780143102595
Extent                   304pp
Category               Fiction, Politics, Current Affairs
Binding                  Paperback
Language              English
Price                     (Rs.)250.00

Review:

Seriously? *Yawn*

This was my first Shobhaa De novel and I was totally disappointed. There was nothing to speak for it, and the author has attempted to ensure the book sells with a lot of cheap sleaze and crude language. Doesn't matter if the plot was set in India, it's an English novel and seriously speaking, Hindi road-side abuses are not so cool while reading.

I started reading the book, thinking it's about Sethji. But no! I was down to 100 pages, and all I was reading about was, Amrita, his daughter-in-law. Characters were loosely formed, and in the political scenario described, it isn't rocket science to link the characters to real life politicians of the country. Sethji was clearly inspired by Sitaram Kesri and Bhau, by Balasaheb Thakarey. 

The plot majorly covers politics, real estate, bollywood, corporate world and even law, but how the book begins is enough to turn on off. The first chapter talks of how Sethji gets his massage, with intricate details of his body parts. For a moment, one might get fooled to believe, that the maalishwaala has an important role later! The daughter-in-law is the only woman in the family of three men and in some way or the other, all of them are dependent on her. She is exploited to the core. At a moment, one wonders -- why! Wouldn't the story have been possible if she was a little less exploited?

As I said, this was my first Shobhaa De paperback; I wish I have never made this attempt. I agree with her views or not, she is more interesting to read in her columns. The book reminded me of a very faint and feeble attempt to be Jackie Collins.

Rating: **/5

[This is a personal review]

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