Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Sex & The Stand In by Louise Cusack

On the jacket:


Justin DuBois is in love with his co-worker, but not only does Marianne think he’s too young to be taken seriously, unfortunately she’s convinced he’s gay. In desperation to win her, Justin recreates her teenage fantasy of a circus, a carnie, and a splash of Old Spice…

Read Sex & the Stand In to find out whether Justin’s crazy plan actually works.

Review:

How many times has it happened that you like a good friend, but the good friend doesn't take you seriously? Millions of times. To us, to our friends, to their friends - this is a common scenario. But, what when the person you are in love with you, the woman of your dreams, is older to you, and ... wait for it, .... thinks you are gay? Older, one can still try and convince but what do you do of a woman who thinks you like your own sex? How do you put it through her mind, that it's her that you love? This is what Louise Cussack's short story Sex & The Stand In's hero, Justin is facing, in the story!!

Justin loves Marianne, his colleague, more than a decade his senior. Marianne is sure Justin is gay, and she herself is going through a divorce. Justin plans to woo her. Does his plan work, or does it backfire? Or does he just drop the idea?

Snappy dialogues, quick read, romantic plot, all in a short story - a story which will keep you smiling from the first line to the last. If you are stickler for romance, you are going to love this book. A story to go with your evening cuppa, its available on Amazon, here.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: Haroun and the sea of stories / Luka and the fire of life by Salman Rushdie

On the jacket:


Haroun: What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true? 

I asked that question and the Unthinkable Thing happened: my father can’t tell stories anymore. That means no more laughter in the city of Alifbay and now the place stinks of sadness. So it’s up to me to put things right. If the water genie Iff can take me on the Hoopoe bird Butt all the way to Gup City then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to persuade the Grand Comptroller to give my father his Story Water supply back. Trouble is, that is strictly forbidden, one hundred percent banned, no way Jose territory... Luka: What do sea monsters eat? The Old Man of the River of Time: Fish and Ships. Why was six afraid of seven? Luka: Because seven eight nine. Luckily, my father is the Riddle King and taught me everything I know. But the stakes are high in this riddle battle, couldn’t be higher in fact! To save my father from Un-Life, I’ve got to beat the Old Man and steal the Fire of Life that burns at the top of the Mountain of Knowledge. Only problem is that nobody in the entire recorded history of the World of Magic has ever successfully stolen the Fire of Life... Includes exclusive material: In the Backstory you can read an interview with the author and solve some fiendish riddles! Vintage Children’s Classics is a twenty-first century classics list aimed at 8-12 year olds and the adults in their lives. Discover timeless favourites from The Jungle Book and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to modern classics such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Review:

Master story-teller that he is, the more I read Rushdie, more I get entangled in his words and submit as a fan. Haroun and Luka, two stories written for the age group I was in, long ago, is yet another of his masterpieces. 

Unputdownable, engrossing and engaging - as a reader, I was transferred to the lands he spoke about in his stories, right from page one. Be it Haroon, his family, the Senguptas or the unhappy land they lived it; or be it Luka, his pets - both will take you to the magical world. If you have grown up reading, you will know what I mean when I say, both the stories are similar to Arabian nights, in terms of how gripping and magical they are. 

I cannot say which story was better, or more enjoyable - Luka and the fire of life, or, Haroun and the sea of stories  - and don't even bother with how old you are, if you love stories, let the mast story-teller mesmerize you.

Rating: *****/5

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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: Sidney Sheldon's The Tides of Memory by Tilly Bagshawe

On the jacket:


An addictive, edge-of-your-seat thriller filled with the hallmark elements that made New York Times bestselling author Sidney Sheldon—"the master of the story-telling game" (People)—an international legend: shocking twists, money, power, and betrayal involving an influential family and the beautiful and formidable woman at its center whose dark secrets can destroy them all.

The conservative party's newest superstar, Alexia De Vere has worked hard to realize her political ambitions. The brilliant and ruthless wife of wealthy aristocrat Teddy De Vere, Alexia relishes her power and the control it gives her to shape and destroy lives.

Yet success has also demanded sacrifice. Her daughter, Roxie, a bitter young woman confined to a wheelchair after a failed suicide attempt, blames Alexia for ruining her life. Alexia's dashing son, Michael, is risking the family's good name to jump-start his entre-preneurial dreams. Thankfully, Alexia has Teddy, her devoted husband who will stop at nothing to protect her.

But beneath Alexia De Vere's gilded life and formidable facade lie secrets that are ugly, dirty, and deadly. When long-buried mistakes of her youth begin to resurface, old hatreds are rekindled and Alexia finds herself on the brink of losing everything—her power, her family, and even her own life. Now the woman who rose so high is on the brink of a perilous fall. For when the tides of memory rise, the only thing that might save her is the truth. . . .

Review:

Wow! That was my first reaction when I had finished reading just half the book. Because, this is where the first twist in the plot hits you hard. Mind you, there are numerous twists even before, but this is where you go 'Whoa!' for the first time. 

I have grown up reading Sydney Sheldon's books and I have no qualms in accepting, he is one of my favourite authors. By the time I had finished grad school, I had read all the books he had written himself. Then came a lull. He died. I haven't read the other 3 books co-authored with Tilly Bagshawe, so this was my Sydney Sheldon read after almost a decade! I have loved the tv series he wrote and I absolutely love his books.

But, The Tides of Memory is not all his and it shows. A typical Sidney Sheldon book doesn't let you rest, there is excitement in every page. Also, this book has no sex. I mean, wasn't he known as the author of steamy novels? What the book does have is strong women characters; Sheldon had himself confessed to writing all his books about women as he believes they are strong and that's how he wants to portray them. 

The Tides of Memory is mainly about Toni and Billy, two teenagers. A child had died while in care of one of them and the other takes blame and serves 15 years behind bars. The story moves to about four decades after this, with more characters joining it. All characters, except maybe Summer and Arnie are flawed, but once you finish the book, you can hate none of them. Big crimes are committed, a lot of deceit, a lot of evil - all to protect the loved ones. One cannot decide who was wrong and who was right, but this is how the characters are. 

The book progresses at a steady pace till about half of it. Being a Sheldon novel, I kept expecting something to happen, but nothing major did. It was a regular story. However, suddenly, out of nowhere, a twist pops itself up. And how? And the twists keep coming! 

Rating: ****/5

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire by Daniel Bergner

On the jacket:


When it comes to sex, common wisdom holds that men roam while women crave closeness and commitment. But in this provocative, headline-making book, Daniel Bergner turns everything we thought we knew about women's arousal and desire inside out. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with renowned behavioral scientists, sexologists, psychologists, and everyday women, he forces us to reconsider long-held notions about female sexuality.

This bold and captivating journey into the world of female desire explores answers to such thought-provoking questions as: Are women perhaps the less monogamous sex? What effect do intimacy and emotional connection really have on lust? What is the role of narcissism—the desire to be desired—in female sexuality? Are political gains for women ("No means no") detrimental in the bedroom? And is the hunt for a "female Viagra" anything but a search for the cure for monogamy?

Bergner goes behind the scenes of some of the most groundbreaking experiments on sexuality today and confronts us with controversial, sometimes uncomfortable findings. Incendiary, profoundly insightful, and brilliantly illuminating, What Do Women Want? will change the conversation about women and sex, and is sure to spark dynamic discussion for years to come.

Review:

Initially, I had my reservations about reading this book and picked it purely to humour it. A male author talking about female sexuality - that would be a bunch of data and researched quotes. I mean, obviously, a man can never understand or write about female sexuality as a female author can, right?

I was pleasantly surprised. The book raises a lot of questions, which is the prime reason I would refer this book to others, to read. The book talks about the space where immense love exists, but no urge to have sex. I was sure this existed out there, but haven't read this been discusses, before. Various topics like - a female's arousal doesn't mean consent, Bremelanotide, a drug failed FDA aproval but aims to strongly stimulate sexual desire in women, etc are discussed. The book has anecdotes from various situations, some quite colourful.

A liberating read in some ways, the book comes very close to talking about the raw feminine sexuality - what is and what is not. Nothing is taboo in the book, and a lot of things, I learnt, that I was really not aware of. 

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: My Beloved's MBA Plans by Disha

On the jacket:


My Beloved’s MBA Plans is a collection of engaging stories with a common thread running through all of them – How much are you willing to give to fulfil your MBA dream? Would you be willing to give up a cushy job and start from scratch? you be willing to stay apart from your spouse? you be willing to uproot your family from a well-settled life?

Read on to discover how Vivek’s MBA course turns out to be quite an adventurous journey with his wife Divya and their two kids. For Arpita, it is a second chance at love. Payal and Nitin make the campus their home while Geet faces a tragic loss. Join Suraj and Priya as they break away from the family business to carve out a path for themselves and discover how Rahul and Dimple spend an unusual honeymoon. 

These are just a few stories from this colorful
collection set against the backdrop of life on campus and aspirations for an MBA degree. The book is a ride through different shades of life and experiences. Whether you are single or married, this book is an absolute must read for anyone who wishes to take an unconventional decision in life.

Review:

When I got this book, my first reaction was, "Yet another love story set with the MBA backdrop? Oh, no!" But when I read the jacket and the preface, I was pleasantly surprised. Over the last 3-4 years, a few of my school friends/juniors had left their full time jobs and joined B-schools. Nothing wrong with this, except that they were married, and some were with children. I had often wondered why they did this, and how did they cope, but asking would have been encroaching private their private spaces.

My Beloved's MBA Plans by Disha is a collection of real life stories of couples, of whom, one has done just what my friends had done - given up their full time jobs, uprooted their families and joined B-schools. The journey was not smooth for any of them, but they coped. How? Read the 16 stories to know more.

More than the concept of the story, what I loved is how it is written. Concise, well-drafted and in no way, boring. I loved how quotes are added in between the narrations. Some stories talk about the changes they made in their lives while some talk about how they emerged better and stronger, at the end of it. Leaving all the securities you have built for yourself and your family, and walking on the path unknown, while dragging your close ones along, on it, one needs a lot of grit, determination and support from the family. But, as the book tells the reader, everything does fall in place. Take the risk, if that's what you have always wanted to. Solutions will come up and smoothed the cracks.

Doesn't matter if you are single or married, you will love this book. And if you, or your partner, are planning to go on the path that people in this book went, here is a guide book for you. Take inspiration from it, and jump in to release your dreams.

Rating: ****/5

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

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Contest Result: The Other Side Of The Table

As promised, the result of the contest for The Other Side Of The Table by Madhumita Mukherjee is out!! A biiig thanks to all who took time to participate and let their creative juices flow! 

Here are some special mentions from the author, who herself judged the contest, in her own words: 

A) Salini Johnson's beautiful entry, is so evocative, I can actually visualize the scene. 

and,

B) Arundhati Kane's poetic entry. It's a great line... I can't get it out of my head.

Our judge also loved Mohit Giria's "lip balm and love" entry because it is so intimate and natural. A sensuous, earthy sort of thing to say/ write. It reads like what someone would write in a love letter, one which opened accidentally will make the guilty reader blush. Perfect! 

However, for the 40+ entries, there had to be only one winner.

So, here it is!!

The winner of the contest is SAMEER MORE!!!! 

Sameer's entry to the contest was:
Bunny, pardon me if this reaches you late. It took time for my words to come back after you left. They're back now, and I'm on my way ahead.
Madhumita was particularly impressed with Sameer's entry and her comments were, *It is so elegant and intriguing...  It can have many different meanings ... I have tried various permutation/ combinations in my head.

Congratulations, Sameer!! You have won yourself a copy of Mukherjee's The Other Side Of The Table as well as vouchers worth Rs 1,000/- which you can redeem at uread.com, both from Fingerprint Publishing!! Maybe now, you can tell us what the lines actually meant? :-)

Please send us your contact address as well as email id.

Thanks to Madhumita Mukherjee for judging the contest and to Fingerprint Publishing for sponsoring the event, this will always remain in the special corner of my memories. 

Happy Reading (and writing)!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: Mistress by James Patterson

On the jacket:


How well can you ever really know someone?

As Ben Casper watches his best friend plummet from her sixth-floor apartment balcony, he realises his life is about to change. Diana had no reason to kill herself, she had to have been pushed.

Diana worked for the CIA, so the investigation into her death is kept tightly under wraps. But Ben is a political journalist, and can feel that something isn't right.

Ben starts investigating for himself and soon discovers Diana was leading a double life he knew nothing about. But when more people involved die in questionable circumstances, it's clear that someone doesn't want the truth to be uncovered.

And unless Ben drops his investigation, he could be next.

Review:

I absolutely adore James Patterson thrillers and Mistress didn't disappoint me one bit, except at the very end. The book begins with Ben Casper going through his best friend Diana's home while she is away, installing hidden camera. He hears her coming back home, so stealthily, shows himself out of the house. When below her apartment complex, he sees a body fall from the balcony, which is in Diana's home. He rushes to find Diana dead. 

Was this a suicide? Or a murder? Or was she driven to suicide?

Ben is paranoid, and very interesting. The plot is huge with a lot of subtales and characters woven in. Patterson as always kept me glued, every page is the reader's money's worth. Ben owns an online newspaper, and as is inherent to the nature of most journalists, he is inquisitive. To add to it, it's the death of his best friend which is at stake. So he begins his investigation, and what unfolds was not something he had the slightest inkling of. 

Dramatic, full of action and fast paced, Mistress has all the makings of an awesome thriller. The end did disappoint me a tad bit though.

Rating: ***.5/5

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

Book Review: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

On the jacket:


Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge, and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence services. The year is 1972. Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism and faces its fifth state of emergency. The Cold War has entered a moribund phase, but the fight goes on, especially in the cultural sphere. Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is sent on a 'secret mission' which brings her into the literary world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer. First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage - trust no one. McEwan's mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love, and the invented self.

Review:

This was my first Ian McEwan book and I had heard a lot about the author. I was not disappointed one bit. He's won Man Booker Prize and his books have been made into movies. Sweet Tooth is about Serena, daughter of an Anglican Bishop, who had had a short affair with an older man when in college. She finds herself being groomed for intelligent services.

The period in which the story is set, is when Britain was being torn apart by terrorism, economic downfall and was in a bad state. This book is about Serena's journey, and at so many places, I ended up imagining myself as her. Why wouldn't I? She is an avid reader and in one of her missions she meet an young author whose stories she falls in love with. And then with him. That's so romantic. 

Very interesting narrative, with clear indications of the author's knowledge and indulgence of literature. Serena's story flows freely and as a reader, one can easily get very involved in the plot. Who doesn't love a spy novel, and McEwan is surely a master in spinning such plots. You wait for something to happen, but when it happens, it does at the least expected point. 

An excellent read.

Rating: ****/5

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

Author Interview: Abhay Nagarajan

His book The Paperback Badshah was a funny take on all the authors whose books (read: hard work and dreams) sell for Rs 100 or less, in the current competitive publishing industry. An interview with author Abhay Nagarajan:

How does it feel to be a published author? You have more than one book in your kitty, does one get used to the hesitation, rejection, irritation, success, and the whole game?

It’s a great feeling! Yes…I’m more confident now while approaching the whole publishing process. But as a new book is up for release, I’m as nervous as I was during the lead up to the release of my first book!
Did you frame the characters based on people from everyday life, or built them on a fresh mould? Where the situations based on real life.

A combination of both, I guess! People I have interacted with and casual conversations I’ve had in passing have provided me with material while creating characters.
Untouched topic, in a way. How high was the anxiety?

In late 2010 when my 1st book was out, I remember that there were only 5-7 titles in the ‘100 rupee’ segment competing with my book for shelf space. In 2012, when book 2 was out, it was around 10-15 titles! But now it is more like 15-20 titles!  So clearly everyone has a story to tell. It could be a campus novel or life beyond a campus setting…but clearly there is a publisher waiting! This served as the basic focal point as I started writing The Paperback Badshah. 

Strangely enough there was no anxiety as my editor immediately liked the concept! 
Tell us something about your struggle with getting published. We have a fair idea that it isn’t  a cake walk. But how was the real deal for you?

It is certainly a challenge. The main issue is- you send your synopsis and sample chapters- the phase which follows is the most frustrating. In some cases you get an outright rejection, in other cases, you have to wait for six months to get a rejection!  The other issue is in the event of 7-8 rejections. What do you do? Do you want to self publish your work? Do you want to release it as an e-book? Do you want to approach the new crop of publishers in the market? Do you want to take the assistance of a literary agent (in case you haven’t already), to pitch the work again to a traditional publisher? These are some of the issues to consider. 

In my case, book 1 was rejected by a few publishers but was accepted by my current publisher within a couple of months of sending across a book proposal. Book 2, 3 have also been with the same publisher.
Writing about the journey of a published author and expecting publishing houses to get the digs. Was it a difficult gamble to play?

Haha. Not really. My editor thankfully saw the funny side of things! 
How and when did you decide to be a published author? Was it always a plan, or did you start thinking on the lines when you thought you had a plot with you.

No plan as such! Working in wealth management provided the backdrop for my first novel. Once I had a storyline in mind, I finished writing it, and then sent across a synopsis and sample chapters to various publishers.
What do you do apart from writing? Give us a sneak peek into your life!

At this point in time, I’m writing full time. So apart from writing, I read a fair bit. I’m also an avid cricket follower.  
What next? 

Have a couple of ideas I’m working on. But nothing is finalized.
Who do you read, who are your favourites?

In the recent past I’ve read Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Siddharth Chowdhury’s Day Scholar and Manu Joseph’s Serious Men, The Illicit Happiness of Other People. For the sheer comical entertainment on offer, some of my favorites are- Sidin Vadukut’s Dork Trilogy, Naomi Datta’s The 6pm Slot, Melvin Durai’s Bala Takes The Plunge and Anuja Chauhan’s The Zoya Factor.

Book Review: Asura - Tale of The Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan

On the jacket:

The epic tale of victory and defeat… The story of the Ramayana had been told innumerable times. The enthralling story of Rama, the incarnation of God, who slew Ravana, the evil demon of darkness, is known to every Indian. And in the pages of history, as always, it is the version told by the victors that lives on. The voice of the vanquished remains lost in silence. 

But what if Ravana and his people had a different story to tell? The story of the Ravanayana has never been told. Asura is the epic tale of the vanquished Asura people, a story that has been cherished by the oppressed castes of India for 3000 years. Until now, no Asura has dared to tell the tale. But perhaps the time has come for the dead and the defeated to speak. 

“For thousands of years, I have been vilified and my death is celebrated year after year in every corner of India. Why? Was it because I challenged the Gods for the sake of my daughter? Was it because I freed a race from the yoke of caste-based Deva rule? You have heard the victor’s tale, the Ramayana. Now hear the Ravanayana, for I am Ravana, the Asura, and my story is the tale of the vanquished.” 

“I am a non-entity – invisible, powerless and negligible. No epics will ever be written about me. I have suffered both Ravana and Rama – the hero and the villain or the villain and the hero. When the stories of great men are told, my voice maybe too feeble to be heard. Yet, spare me a moment and hear my story, for I am Bhadra, the Asura, and my life is the tale of the loser.” 

The ancient Asura empire lay shattered into many warring petty kingdoms reeling under the heel of the Devas. In desperation, the Asuras look up to a young saviour – Ravana. Believing that a better world awaits them under Ravana, common men like Bhadra decide to follow the young leader. With a will of iron and a fiery ambition to succeed, Ravana leads his people from victory to victory and carves out a vast empire from the Devas. But even when Ravana succeeds spectacularly, the poor Asuras find that nothing much has changed from them. It is then that Ravana, by one action, changes the history of the world.

Review:

I remember being 3 and owning my first book on Ramayana, an illustrated book. I absolutely loves tales of Hindu mythology and having watched Ramayana on the telly, the story is vivid in my mind. Interestingly, when I was pretty young, my mother had told me, not to be too influenced by the story as it is one sided and Ravana, though being wrong, was a very learned man and had reasons for being who he was. She'd told me, there is a lot that one can learn from Ravana, about grit, determination, faith, hardwork and knowledge. And, he was a man of honour, he did kidnap Sita, but never compromised her honour. Ever since, I had tried to read about Ravana but didn't find much. Until I read Asura.

Neelakantan has, in a very flawless and smooth manner, portrayed the other, humane side of Ravana, the person he was - albeit being the demon king. The story begins at the point where Ravana has lost to Rama and then goes to the past and begins from Ravana's childhood. How a simple person progresses to someone evil, when power gets to his head. 

A very well researched book, if you are a staunch believer of Rama and don't entertain reading good about his enemy, you might not like this book. But, if you read this book with an open mind, you will love it. At no point is Ravana being glorified or Rama defamed, this is a simple story from the point of view of the defeated. 

The book is elaborate and while reading there were lot of events which I decided I would talk about, when I write my review, but then I would have to replicate the entire story. 

I urge you to read this book, give it time, not only to read a wonderful story, but ... to know that Ravana was another character in Ramayana whose flaws were glorified and strengths underplayed. There is much to learn from him, know about him and once we know him better, Ramayana as a story, is way more clear in the mind.

Rating: ****.5/5

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy Birthday. To me.

A few hours and I will turn a year older. While I am not very happy at turning older but it's inevitable, so what the hell. Once you cross 30, every year is just a number you would rather forget. Now, anyone who knows me, knows how much my birthday thrills me. And many, yes many, wonder what is there to be so excited. After all I am not a five-year-old!

I differ in opinion. A five-year-old has nothing to be happy about, except for the gifts and the cake. Of course, those are very important too, and hey, I want those too! But, the reason I am always excited about my birthday and can be seen/heard going on and on about it, is because I am thankful to be born. Thankful to be born, thankful to have been brought by the angels in the form of parents and family, thankful to have lived my life in my terms always, thankful to be married to the guy I had vehemently said no, thankful that I came to my senses and fell in love with him, thankful that I married him and with him I got a family I dote upon, thankful about so many other things.

I am also thankful that my mother chose to give birth to me, despite being told her life might be at risk if she had me. I am thankful that I was born to a woman who wanted a daughter with all her heart; she had decided my name even before I was born. I am thankful to be born in a family of over achievers, in terms of education and career, yet, never ever pulled up for being an average performer in everything I did. I am thankful my mother married my father, I am so proud I am his daughter. 17 years since his demise, I am still recognized as Dr Mukherjee's daughter. 

There is much more that I am thankful for. I am thankful to be alive. I know how many times I have been so close to not being alive, but I still am. I am thankful for my friends, so much, so much. I am clueless why they love me, but they love me so much! Must be something awesome I did in my previous births!

Life is perfect? Far from it. But there is so much to be thankful for!

This is my day. If I don't celebrate it, who else will? If I don't celebrate my own birthday, who else will?

Most importantly, why won't I?

Who knows, agla aaye ya nahin?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: Mom In The City by Kausalya Saptharishi

On the jacket:


When single working mother, Ira, enrolls her son, Abhi, at Bumblebees, a posh playschool in Lutyens Delhi, little does she know what she is getting into. The other moms are everything she is not impeccably groomed, couture sporting fashionistas who do coffee at trendy joints, throw lavish birthday parties for their children and holiday in exotic locales. In her eagerness to befriend these hip moms, Ira inadvertently lets slip a lie about her marriage that could lead to her being ostracized from this clique.

When the dashing Vasu comes back into her life, Ira asks him to pose as her fake husband to help her save face before these women. But will her lie be found out? Will Ira and Vasu part ways or embark on a new beginning together?

Replete with memorable characters, Mom in the City is an intimate, humorous and poignant story about contemporary motherhood, love and life in India. The first of its kind in the Indian mom lit genre.

Review:

Mom in the City has a very attractive and stylish cover, it was the main component which attracted me towards reading the book. I was not very sure if I wanted to read this genre, but the read was definitely pleasant.

A tale about a single mother, working in publishing and managing work, home and child and fighting the loving and indulgent family who want her to settle near to where they are, so that they can keep an eye on both of her. 

The events that unravel and the the flair with which the story is written, makes Mom in the City  a very enjoyable read. This is not your regular chit-lit, this is a proper story with a substance. I haven't read Kausalya Saptharishi's previous book, The TamBrahm Bride but reading this book, I gauge it would be a fun read and is in my to-read list now.

From interacting with the prim and proper, dolled up mothers of the other children at her son's school, to finding Vasu back in her life, to managing everything under the sun - Ira, our leading lady has a roller coaster life. Witty and a good read, Mum in the City is one of the best reads by Indian authors, that I have read this year!

Rating: ****/5

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

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Review: The Superstar Syndrome : The Making of a Champion by Myra S. White, Sanjay Jha

On the jacket:



Hidden in each of us is a superstar waiting to come to life. Often we struggle to find this, not because we lack talent, desire, or ability, but because we dont know the right steps to take. Frequently, we surrender to a sea of negative emotions and self-doubts right at the very beginning, or give up after a few setbacks. Dr Myra S. White and Sanjay Jha provide a comprehensive nine-step roadmap to help you succeed in the workplace and other areas of your lives.

The Superstar Syndrome is the ultimate success bible based on the lives of over 80 well-known people, like N.R. Narayana Murthy, M.S. Dhoni, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Warren Buffet and Ratan Tata who transformed themselves from ordinary people into exceptional achievers. It covers all aspects of what you need to know and do to successfully make the journey to superstardom how to identify and manage your special talents, build power, influence and deliver A-level performances and illustrates each step with examples from the lives of the well-known superstars that were studied. It makes you believe that the finish line is not just within your reach, but opens up dreams and possibilities beyond

Review:


The Superstar Syndrome : The Making of a Champion by Myra S. White, Sanjay Jha was an interesting read in terms of a study into the reasons of why a superstar is a superstar. The book begins with telling us that there is a superstar in each one of us, all one needs to do is identify and work upon it.

The book talks about knowing yourself, knowing where you are going, knowing how to get there, knowing how to create your personal success syndrome, knowing how to get up and give help, knowing how to use the power of emotions, knowing how to manage your performance, knowing how to manage risk and adversity and knowing how to have fun. 

The Superstar Syndrome talks about various superstars ranging from filmstars to sportsmen to famous businessmen, Indian and international, 84 superstars in all. A very well researched book, which one can derive a lot from. A good read.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: Hitched by Nandini Krishnan

On the jacket:

If you are an Indian woman and old enough to legally bear children, chances are that an overweight relative has asked you, while fondly stroking their pot belly, 'When am I going to eat at your wedding?' The modern Indian woman's attitude to marriage and especially to arranged marriage is a confused one. As traditional matchmaking methods and internet chat rooms come together to build matrimonial websites, our parameters have changed, but the time-honoured practice of arranged marriage sticks. Hitched explores in depth the considerations matrimony should involve and the issues that can crop up at different stages of an arranged marriage. A cross-section of women those who married young, married late, married the first man their parents parked before them or married out of caste in an arranged setup open up about experiences ranging from the frightening to the hilarious and the aww-inspiring.

Review:

I have always been very curious about arranged marriages, I have never quite understood how anyone can decide if the person is the one with just a couple of meetings, sometimes just one. When I picked up Hitched, I loved the cover, to begin with. I was also expecting it to be a book of funny and scary experiences of arranged marriages.

I am not sure if I loved the book, or didn't like it much, so I would give it a three. It's got nothing one wouldn't know, I am talking about married people here. Every marriage needs a lot of work, be it arranged or love - when you start living with a person, you are starting from the scratch anyway. The book begins on a slow speed, the first few stories are a bit boring, if I may use the adjective. But, it gets better. If you are about to get into an arranged marriage, you might want to pick up a point or two. Or if you are already in one, you might identify with the stories. You might want to go by, and follow some of the rules a few of the writers have mentioned, in terms of how their won marriages have worked, but rest assured, you will still need to make up your own rules. What works for one couple doesn't necessary need to work for another.

So, don't treat it as a bible, I would say. Treat Hitched as a book, a collection of short stories about experiences of people in arranged marriages.

Rating: ***/5

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

Book Review: My Journey by APJ Abdul Kalam

On the jacket:


From a small boy growing up in Rameswaram, to becoming the country's eleventh President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's life has been a tale of extraordinary determination, courage, perseverance and the desire to excel. In this series of anecdotes and profiles, Dr Kalam looks back on key moments in his past?some small and some momentous?and tells the reader how each of them inspired him profoundly. With warmth and affection, he talks about the people who left a deep impression on him as he was growing up and as an adult, and the lessons he drew from his interactions with them. He describes those who have been the closest to him?his father with his deep love of God, his mother and her great kindness, his mentors who helped shape his thoughts and outlook. There are heart-warming accounts here of his childhood years spent in a small town by the Bay of Bengal and the many struggles and sacrifices made on the path to becoming a scientist and then the President of India. Dr Kalam also writes about the times when failure and dejection nearly overtook him and how he prevailed over those obstacles by drawing strength from books and spirituality.

Nostalgic, honest, and deeply personal, My Journey is the story of a life as rich as it is unusual and the beautiful lessons to be learnt from it.

Review:

When I received this book, I was already reading another book. I set it aside and started reading My Journey. I am glad I did so, because this was one spectacular read.

My Journey, as a read, is exactly like it's author is. Simple, with a lot of depth, there is something to learn from each of the short stories and each will inspire the reader in the long way. One sees an achiever, a grownup and sees his/her achievements but to hear or read them talking about significant stories from their childhood, incidents which made them what they are now or indicated what they will be when they grow up.

If you are going to read this book, I suggest you don't rush through it. Read it when you are at peace, with an open imagination. When I read My Journey, I found myself, going about my day with a baby Kalam, in the 1930s. Every chapter opens with a spectacular sketch, my favourite being the sketch of an eight-year-old Kalam before chapter six. It somehow gave me a face to the little boy, the stories were connecting me to.

An eight-year-old Kalam had noticed that the food in his mother's plate was decreasing day by day, during the world war. An average child of that age wouldn't do that. But Kalam took to delivering newspapers at such a tender age, contributing his share to the dinner table. An inquisitive child, who grew up in the small child of Rameswaram - one wonders, how did he get the ambition to be so learned and so accomplished? You read about his parents, his siblings, rest of the family and friends and know - how they were all instrumental in making the person we all know today as the very learned, charming, ex-President of our country, Dr Kalam.

I can go on and on about this book, but the best you can do, is read this book. Doesn't matter if you are a reader or not, as a human, you should.

Rating: 5/5

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

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Book Review: Afghan Rumour Bazaar: Secret Sub-Cultures, Hidden Worlds and the Everyday Life of the Absurd by Nushin Arbabzadah

On the jacket:

Ironic and humorous, witty and self-deprecatory, The Afghan Rumour Bazaar reveals the quotidian absurdities of lives framed against the backdrop of a savage war. Offering daringly new perspectives on a country readers may erroneously assume they know, Nushin Arbabzadah delves into the unacknowledged but real secret sub-cultures and hidden worlds of Afghans, from underground converts to Christianity to mysterious male cross-dressers to tales of bacha-posh girlboys.


Among the individuals, fables and dilemmas she confronts are 'Why are Imams Telling Us About Nail Polish?', 'Afghanistan's Rich Jewish Heritage', 'Kabul Street Style', 'The Resurgence of Afghanistan's Spiritual Bazaar', and not forgetting Malalai of Maiwand, who turned her headscarf into a banner and led a successful rebellion against the British. Arbabzadah reveals for the first time Afghans' own vibrant internal deliberations - - on sex and soap operas; conspiracy theories; drugs and diplomacy; terrorism and the Taliban; and how a long-dead soothsayer from Bulgaria accidentally shut down a newspaper.

Many different Afghan sensibilities are presented in her book, yet together they offer an unvarnished, at times heartwarming, at times tragic, insight into one of the most complex and fascinating countries on earth.

Reviews:

Even though pretty much a country in the neighbourhood, Afghanistan is a different world altogether for us, in India. For me, it's a mystery. I haven't read much about Afghanistan and Afghan Rumour Bazaar proved to be a fine sneak peek to a whole new world.

There are times while reading the book, I would sit back and wonder, this country is quite near to my own country; yet we are so world's apart. As of today, my own country has less running for it's favour, but life in Afghanistan is a different realm, a different era altogether.

Very varied in the way the plot goes, the book is an eye opener. When I say eye-opener, I mean it. While I learnt a lot I didn't know, a lot of my misconceptions were also cleared. The book opens with the night when there was a party and the author's father had no one to drive his guests back, as all were drunk. The author's 12-year-old brother is entrusted with driving the guests and he take his little sister, the author along. It was a shocker for me to read of such an unsafe condition, until I realised we ourselves live in conditions unsafe to people from the west, maybe. The author also talks about how careful one has to be about what they say in public, specially about the government. Spys are all around and it's very easy to be mistaken as a spy and punished or have to flee like the author's family had to.

A very very good and treasured read; my talking about the plot in the book won't give you any clear picture of what is inside it. One has to read it to let the heartwarming, fascinating aspects presented in this book, soak in. It's a turmoil, and there are people living it. People and lives we should know about.

Rating: ****.5/5

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

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Author Interview: Arindam Dey, author of Forever In My Heart

His first book, Forever In My Heart, is a love story, but with a fresh, imaginative and mesmerizing plot. In conversation with author Arindam Dey :


Congratulations on being a published author, and doing such a good job with the story! How does it feel to be a published author? 

Thank you so much Samarpita! Ah, I would say, relieved! It has been somewhat a long wait for the last 3 years since I first came close to publishing the novel in 2009-10. So, really, relief is the first thing that hits me at this point of time. And, of course very happy to see the dream finally come true.

Did you frame the characters based on people from everyday life, or built them on a fresh mould? Were the situations based on real life?

I would say the characters of FIMH were mostly built on a fresh mould. And the situations were almost all imagined, barring two. There are actually two small episodes of Rishav and Saanjh in the book, from their school days, that were partially inspired by real life events. 

A love story from a 25-year old. With no clichés, and a very imaginative plot. About people, cities and situations out of your regular life, very impressive. How did this plot shape up?

Well not exactly 25. I am over 26 now. Anyway, for a long time, I had this basic plot in my mind about a woman separated from her lover 18 years ago suddenly finds hope of finding him back and her subsequent journey in quest of that. At first I didn’t think it had the makings of a novel. More of a long ‘short story’ or at most a small novella. But as I sat down writing it, new ideas grew up, subplots crept in, Josephine, Ankit and a whole lot of other characters came into life, and before I realized it I was looking at a 64-65 thousand word piece.

Every second author is writing love stories these days. How difficult was it to stay out of the regular track and keep the plot original?

Well, I do read a bit of current fiction and so I somehow had a fair idea in my mind about how I wanted to write my story, and what I wanted to stay away from. But as I said, when I sat down writing the story I only had a basic plot in my mind. So I didn’t give much thought to take that extra care about being original. I had a story to tell and I wanted to put in on paper, and that was it. At that time I didn’t bother whether this was an original plot or if it had been used earlier. The only time I started thinking about it was when I was through with the final manuscript and forwarded in to my editor. I wanted her feedback, besides everything else, on whether the plot seemed any different to her from all the others that she had been reading. And every time we had a conversation I would keep asking her, if she really thought that this story sounded different.

Tell us something about your struggle with getting published. We have a fair idea that it isn’t a cake walk. But how was the real deal for you?

Well, I have learnt a few lessons even before I got my first novel published. I wish it was a pleasant one, but then destiny had planned otherwise. As I told earlier, I once came close to publishing my first novel almost 3 years back. But due to some issues, I retracted from publishing with them on grounds of moral differences. 
However, a few months later I discovered that the same publisher had given the title and tagline of the novel I forwarded them to a novel from another new author at that time (without even the knowledge of that author, as I was informed later, and I hold nothing against that author for the incident), just to take some kind of revenge on me for not going ahead with publishing my novel with him. Taken aback, I was not sure whether my novel was safe anymore with them knowing the basic story. So I re-wrote the entire novel from the scratch. It did test my patience somewhat and at times the fact that I was conned did hurt and frustrate me to an extent that I would think about quitting. But my family and friends gave all the support during this time and the result of which is already there with you. Now I actually thank my luck for having shown me one of the ugly sides of the publishing world very early in my life. 
And this time, when I met representatives of Paperclip Books in the Jaipur Lit Fest in January 2013, things started moving very smoothly with them, and I really thank all of them for their support and hard work to finally make my dream come true.

How and when did you decide to be a published author? Was it always a plan, or did you start thinking on the lines when you thought you had a plot with you?

Being a writer was always a dream. The idea of being able to connect to people without seeing, meeting or even knowing them was something that always fascinated me and I wanted to experience that feeling someday. I used to write a lot of short stories and send them to different literary magazines. However, the idea of actually realizing this dream of being a published author started to grow upon me only after I started writing this novel.

What do you do apart from writing? Give us a sneak peek into your life!

Apart from writing, and my office, I love reading a lot. Travelling, bit of photography, bit of sketching, but I am still a novice at both. I have always been a gadget freak. And at times, I simply sit back and enjoy looking at all the people around me, watching their behaviors and interactions, and so on. On a social front, though I love meeting new people, but I would confess, I feel somewhat reserved to begin with at times. But once that is out of the way, I am told that I am a very talkative guy. Haha!

Is it difficult to write with a full time job?

It is, to some extent. But then mostly I have my writing hours clearly marked out at night, which I try to maintain very strictly. It is exhausting at times, more so mentally. There are days when I would just love to wrap up everything quickly and hit the bed. But I do make it a point to write at least a thousand words every day, whatever be it. It’s some sort of discipline that my passion demands from my comfort. 
But I must also add that I have got a great atmosphere in my office, with all my colleagues who are very supportive and are always coming up with new ideas for me. 

Who do you read, who are your favorites?

My favorite author is Paulo Coelho. I absolutely adore his works. And I loved Robert James Waller for The Bridges of Madison County. Besides that, I do not choose much. I enjoyed reading the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and then Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Richard Bach, and more recently Haruki Murakami and some others. I am a big lover of poetry and nothing fascinated me more than W.B.Yeats and later Pablo Neruda. 
Back home obviously Tagore inspires all Bengalis in all forms of literature, and I am no exception. I also love the works of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, R.K.Narayan, and also the written works of Satyajit Ray.  

What next? 

I am working on my second novel at this moment. I have also been working on a poetry collection for some time now. Let’s see how that shapes up. 

When can we expect your new book? Tell us something about it.

I started working on the second book right after the first one came out. Can’t say much about the timeline as I am still on the first draft itself. All I can say about it at this point is that, it’s a love story and a major part of it is set in the Sunderbans, land of the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Review: He Loves Me Not by Vrushali Telang

On the jacket: 


Childhood sweethearts, good - looking Jimmy Cooper and plain Jane Mehroo Nasarwanji are now 'grown up' twenty - somethings. While Mehroo is loyal and crazy about Jimmy, Jimmy is anything but loyal and crazy about everything else but Mehroo. So while Jimmy charms his way through life naive Mehroo tries every trick in Pizzazz magazine to seduce her man. Will Mehroo come out of her shell and discover her true self ? Will Jimmy look beyond himself? Packed with colourful characters and a racy plot, the forbidden fruit is about two very different people who grow up together, learn about love and discover who they really are.

Review:

I picked up Vrushali Telang's He Loves Me Not for two main reasons: I *love* Bawas and in my opinion a book by a journalist can rarely ever be bad. Both the reasons prove to be correct and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. 

A story about the residents of Narielwala Mansion, a society where most residents are Parsis. The protagonists are Jimmy Cooper and Mehroo Nasarwanji, childhood friends and now bed buddies. Their fathers are best friends and while Jimmy's mother left him and his father; Mehroo's mother died when the girl was 12. Being brought up without a mother, has affected both of them, in different ways. While Mehroo, a plain Jane, devoted her life to loving Jimmy, he on the other hand turned vain owing to his good looks and used her as an ATM.

He Loves Me Lot is a very well-written plot, characters are well-defined and the events smooth moving. Interesting events have been added and they have been kept realistic. Towards the end of the book, the section where AN comes looking for Ritu and then he finds her with Jimmy's help, was not really needed. It could have been done without, or the climax a bit more deep spun. 

The hidden Bawi in me loved reading the dialogue, and every time Porus, Dinshaw, Pesi etc spoke, I missed my Bawa friends.

An easy, fun read.

Rating: ****/5

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Author Interview: Atulya Mahajan

In conversation with very hilarious Atulya Mahajan, author of Amreekan Desi, Masters of America :

Congratulations on such a huge success of the book! Most of us are aware that you are very witty. But, Amreekan Desi is actually, your wittiest best, in my opinion. Did you expect it to be such a success?

Aww, thanks. I am so flattered by the praise. I felt this book was more earnest than witty/sarcastic, though that has been my favourite writing style till now. I haven’t really dabbled a lot in fiction before this book, so I look at it as a small first step for mankind.
To be honest, I didn’t expect the book to be such a success. I expected it to be a MUCH bigger success. I was half-worried about crazy stalkers, paparazzi hiding in bushes around the house, being invited to Oprah, or at least Arnab’s Newshour, and such like. Luckily I’ve been spared all of that insanity, so just happy that people have liked and appreciated my work.

Did you frame the characters based on your friends and yourself, or built them on a fresh mould?

Some of the characters are based on friends and people I have known and interacted with. But they don’t map one to one. I might have clubbed different aspects of multiple people to create a single character, but the intent was to show what people become when they live abroad, through this group of characters in the book. A mix of sincere and wacky characters, some of them consciously exaggerated to highlight the impact.

Untouched topic, in a way. How high was the anxiety?

I was fine till about a month before the book release, and then it sunk in that the book is going to be read by all sorts of people, some of whom would like it, some of them would not like it, and so on. I felt like a parent whose child was now off to go out in the world, would be judged by strangers, called names, and it was quite a nasty feeling. You can never really be prepared for the sort of reception your work will get when it is out in the public domain. It is nerve-wracking, especially the first time around.

Tell us something about your struggle with getting published. We have a fair idea that it isn’t a cake walk. But how was the real deal for you?

Oh, getting published is super-painful. I won’t name any publishers because I need to stay in the industry, but they are just so picky that getting through almost seems like a lottery. You hear all those stories of manuscripts piling dust in the trash without even getting a look. And then you hear of writers whose books were rejected by everyone, only to eventually go on to sell a gazillion copies.
I got lucky though. I got rejected by the first publisher I approached. The second one never responded, but they picked it up after I sent them a nudge using one of my, *cough* links. Eventually one of my Twitter ‘fans’ at Random House asked me to submit to them after seeing me ranting away and the rest, as they say, is history. I still remember the sweet feeling after seeing Milee’s email confirming that they were going to make an offer.

Comedy is a difficult genre. The reason I liked Amreekan Desi, was because it stuck to the basic human emotions. Every situation, dialogue seemed out of my own experiences. So would have a lot others; while a bigger group won’t identify with the theme at all. Was it a difficult gamble to play?

As a first-time writer, everything is a gamble & experiment  and over time you find out what works and what doesn't  In my case, while there is some humor in the book, it is intentionally not a comedy as such, but more sincere in trying to go through the journey one makes when you leave India to travel to a new country. 
So yes, while people who were looking for a very funny book like Sidin’s Dork series might end up feeling underwhelmed, it was by design. It also meant that I was in new territory, given I have done mostly humor and satire on the blog so far. But all in all, it was fun. There are so many aspects to writing meaningful fiction, which I am still learning about. Still a long way to go as a writer.

How and when did you decide to be a published author? Was it always a plan, or did you start thinking on the lines when you thought you had a plot with you?

More than a plan, it was always the dream. In terms of the plot, I genuinely felt that my experience during the two odd years of my masters was something that could be built up into a story that people would like to read, because it was truly a voyage of discovery for me, and I saw so many unique characters around me that I just had to write this story. 
But I did want to build my writer ‘cred’ first before jumping into writing a novel, so once I thought I had got sufficient experience writing on the blog and my ToI columns, I started the project.

Is it difficult to write with a full time job?

Very difficult. It becomes a constant struggle to find time to write, made even worse by other temptations and distractions like family, Twitter, Facebook, Temple Run, food etc.


What do you do apart from writing and cracking us up with your tweets? Give us a sneak peek into the real Amreekan Desi!

I have been working in the financial industry for the last many years, and currently work at Royal Bank of Scotland as a Vice President, which is just a fancy title I can’t show-off enough. My day job involves getting people to do work, while I sit back and relax. [I am kidding. I am a workaholic who needs to be dragged away from his desk. God! I am kidding again.]

What next? New genre; or you would want to stick to comedy?

I have a few ideas. Will see where life takes me. As for comedy, I would always want to keep a humorous tone in my books, but even Amreekandesi wasn’t an all-out funny book. 
One thing I am learning is that to get critical aclaim and win awards, you need to have poor people, death and misery in your books. Maybe I’ll try that next. Who knows!
Who do you read, who are your favourites?

I don’t get enough time to read as much as I would like, but I recently read Arvind Adiga’s The White Tiger, which is a fascinating read – the sort of story I would love to tell one day. I also enjoy Jhumpa Lahiri’s work. Among other favorites - Jeffry Archer, Michael Crichton, Harry Potter, Amish’s Shiva trilogy and Ravi Subramanium’s thrillers. I don’t have the strong biases many people are so proud of, so I really read and enjoy all sorts of books, whether the characters are wallowing in their misery or not.

#BookBlast: Lean Into Relationships by Rishabh Jhol

About the Book: Doubt has pivoted many a relationship across the centuries. Whether it is Othello suspicious of Desdemona or through...