Sunday, May 25, 2014

#BookReview : Starcursed by Nandini Bajpai


On the jacket:

In the ancient city of Ujjayani, the planets align to decide the fate of two starcursed lovers. Born under the curse of Mars, brilliant and beautiful Leelavati, daughter of the famed astronomer Bhaskarya Acharya of Ujjayani, knows she can never wed. But when her childhood playmate, the handsome and rich Rahul Nagarseth, returns from sea, their attraction is rekindled under stormy monsoon skies. As Leela, forced by fate to relinquish Rahul, tries to find solace in teaching at her fathers observatory, a fleeting alignment of the stars is discovered that can help overcome her curse. But Rahul is called away on a war to defend his kingdom. Can he return in time or will she lose him forever to the will of the planets?   Set in turbulent twelfth century India, against the backdrop of the savage wars waged by Muhammad of Ghor and his band of Turkis, Starcursed is a sweeping tale of science, romance and adventure that will transport its readers to another world.

Review:

There aren't many books for Young Adults that I have read and wished we had such books when I was a YA. Seriously, we read better stuff. The reason I wanted to read Starcursed, is because I love to read stories which take me back in time. I love historical novels. Nandini Bajpai's Starcursed not only took me on a good trip to the twelfth century, but left me wishing I had read this book as a twelve year old, maybe.

Starcursed is a story about Leelavati and Rahul. Leelavati is the daughter of an astrologer, Bhaskara Acharya of Ujjayani. She was cursed by the stars, when it came to love and her marriage. Her parents loved her wanted her to learn as much as she wanted to, she spends a lot of time in the observatory. She is born to progressive parents who even in the twilfth century, wanted their daughter to learn.  Her father's attempt to find the auspicious moment for her to get married, goes to waste. It's very easy to love Leelavati for the person she is. Her father is very impressive in his mindset. 

Meanwhile. Leelavati meets Rahul, a rich, handsome guy who wants to marry Leelavati despite knowing the flaws in her birth charts. Such is his love for her. The book needs to be read, to find out if Leelvati's stars are stronger or Rahul's love for her is. Which will triumph, will Leela and Rahul be able to break the curse and have a happily ever after?

The story line is crisp and characters are strong. Bajpai has an interesting way of story telling which makes the read very interesting. Her portrayal of life in Ujjayani, the social scenario, and treatement metted on women in those days.


The author can be reached at:
Website: http://www.nandinibajpai.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nandinirbajpai

Rating: ****/5









Saturday, May 24, 2014

#BookReview: Transactions of Belongings by Jaya Padmanabham

On the jacket:

 The short stories in the collection blend emotion and introspection. Moments of urgency and sweetness are fully canvassed and explored. The stories draw out and examine the texture of emotional belonging. In "His Curls," a mother suffers the anguish of wondering if her son is a terrorist. The ending is left to interpretation and several possibilities. The reader is forced to teeter between laughter and sadness in the tragicomedy of "An Indian Summer." "The Blue Arc" is a redemptive tale of a young woman who shows enormous courage. Each story in the collection is a journey of insights. Transactions of Belonging is a unique, intense and gripping work of short fiction.  "In this debut collection, Jaya Padmanabhan has brought together a diverse and memorable group of characters from many kinds of backgrounds. With meticulous details and keen observation, she brings them to life and makes us care about them-their poverty, their loneliness, their tragedies and their triumphs."-CHITRA DIVAKARUNI, author of The Mistress of Spices and Oleander Girl.

Review:

An anthology of twelve short stories, Transactions of Belongings by Jaya Padmanabhan is a beautiful bouquet of human emotions. A attempt to write short stories in one's debut book, is a very daring attempt, in m opinion. However. Padmanabhan has touched all the right chords and explored the correct emotions, making every story exemplary.  

In a collection of twelve short stories, my personal favourite is Indian Summer, a story of teenage girl and her trouble relationship with her mother.Very gripping tales, they manage to involve you in the plot, body and soul. The Blue Arc is heartening, to say the least. Strapped For Time is about an old man and the sexual tension he shares with his maid. We also have a mother being torment with the idea of her son being a terrorist in His Curls.

Rating: *****/5

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

#BookReview : Far Beyond The Dead End by Saikat Baksi

On the jacket:

They called it the 'mound of dead'. In other words, Mohenjo-Daro!  
But beneath those layers of ruin, once flourished a town pulsating with life. There lived Koli with her enigmatic charm, Sindhu with an eyeful of dreams, Girad with his raging passion, the decrepit priest prophesying the doom and many others. They loved, hated and chased their fixations in manic rage. A series of mysterious deaths ensued from such frenetic hunt for lust, riches and glory. Yet, the inexorable game of destruction did not cease to play, until they ventured Far Beyond the Dead End only to be discovered under a heap of rubble four thousand years later.

Review:

I am a fan of Indian history, specially about archeological finds. Harappa and Mohenjo-daro had made place in my mind, the first time I read about them, back in school. I was in the third or the fifth, I don't remember. What I do remember is that we had a unit test the day after, the chapter was about Mohenjo-daro, and I contracted Conjunctivitis. While my mother was in a dilemma about sending me to school the next day, I was desperate to go and give the test. Yes, I loved studying about Moheno-daro, so much! And ever since there, fantasies and probable stories of how life and people in that cvilization had been, have always presided over my mind. 
So, when Far Beyond The Dead End arrived, I had to start reading it. Far Beyond The Dead End is about the civilization that lived in Mohenjo-daro. It's like the author has taken a leaf of my mind, and written a story around it. Our protagonist is this girl called Koli, a beautiful, smart, skilled and talented young girl. Her father thinks she should marry Sindhu. But, Girad has his eyes on her and tricks her into marrying him.

Baksi has weaved into this story, his interpretation of how doomsday might have arrived Mohenjo-daro. The pace of the plot is perfect and the characters are interesting. Baksi has done a lot of research while framing the story and it shows in his depiction of the culture, people, infrastructure etc of the place. A little bit of crisper editing could have made the plot more together, and an even better read.

Being a fan, I loved reading a story set in the town that exists no more, today. Definitely, a good read.

Rating: ****/5

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

#BookReview : With a Pinch of Salt... by Jas Anand

On the jacket:

There are some people who can never come straight to a point. If you ask them a simple question like what is the time? They would probably reply, Time! This is the most horrible time of my life. My father is not sending me more money, I cant understand any damn thing in the lectures, no girl ever seems to be interested in me and the hostel food is pathetic. It is the worst time of my life.  In short, this book is like a handbook of everyday humor. It is based on observation of funny tendencies in people and then creating fictional caricatures and anecdotes around them.  The tendency of beating around the mulberry bush has been converted into a fictional character called Simon Satellite. And yes, there are many more such characters and anecdotes, served With a Pinch of Salt.

Review:

With A Pinch Of Salt is Jas Anand's take on humour in everyday life. I cannot stress enough on how much of a relief it was to read something different from the same run-of-the-mill romance stories. 

Anand has picked some peculiar characters from his everyday life, animated them a bit and presented them to us. I have read in a few reviews, how the tone of the book went overboard but in my opinion, it was just fine. Because these were real people, people we all have around us. I also think giving the characters names like Simon Satellite, Googly Gilbert, Wally Wordsworth,Goofy Gordon etc are extremely innovative. I was in splits when the author described situations where these characters met!

A crisper editing could have done wonders for this book. I had started reading it with zero expectations, and while I was not ROFL-ing while reading it, there was a constant array of giggle, smirk, laughter and squeal. 
Rating: ****/5

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

#BookReview : Infinitude by Ruchi Banerjee

On the jacket:

The year is 2173. Humans are a near-extinct group herded together in protected sectors. Mira, a regular, self-absorbed, 16-year-old pimple buster, resident of Sector 51, has no clue how drastically her life is about to change when she accompanies her mother on a research project to a distant tropical jungle. There, Mira discovers a tall, super-intelligent and rather good-looking boy called Neel, who introduces her to a whole new world of mysterious possibilities. But before she can even begin to understand her feelings for him, things take a nightmarish turn . . . Carnivorous mutants are on the prowl. A deadly new breed of the forest, they have Mira trapped. Rescued by unlikely saviours, she finally learns the ugly truth of her world. Now, Mira must fight not only for her own life but also for humanity itself as she is pitted against a far stronger, smarter and more evolved enemy. Her only hope lies in Neel. But will he be able to overcome the overwhelming odds against them? Will this be the end of the human race? With electrifying action and forbidden love, Infinitude is the riveting story of two young lives caught in a deadly clash of civilizations.

Review:

Set in 2173, this is an Young Adult fantasy novel. Our protagonist is Mira and she is like any other 16-year-old from 2014 - a pimple faced, self-absorbed teenager. By 2173, humans are almost extinct and whoever are still around, live together in protected herds. Mira lives in sector 51.

Mira meets Neel, a super attractive guy and starts falling for him. But things change and she finds herself getting sucked on to a mystery. She is kept trapped by this new breed of  carnivorous mutants. Her hopes of being saved lies on Neel. The books opens on a good note and manages to procure the reader's attention. However, towards the end, the momentum slows down a bit. 

If fantasy is a genre you relish, this is a very well thought plot to read. Nice characterizations, a tight plot and smooth flow of sequence.

Rating: ***.5/5

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


#BookReview : Che in Paona Bazaar by Kishalay Bhattacharjee

On the jacket:

North-East India is not an ‘imagined community’, separated from the politics and policies that govern the rest of the country. It is as real as the violence that has torn the land apart, leaving its people grappling for a semblance of normalcy, if nothing else. The north-east isn’t just a hotbed for insurgency and deadly casual encounters, a stop-over on every international rock band’s schedule, or where used syringes lie waiting in dark alleys. There are other realities as well— of forbidden love, weddings, fascinating cuisines, childhood memories and other 'unimportant stories' that never made it to our newspapers and television screens.  In spite of gaining exclusive access to the region, former Resident Editor (NDTV, north-east), Kishalay Bhattacharjee struggled to broadcast stories of these multitudes. Years in the media have taught him that not all revolutions will be televised. Che in Paona Bazaar finds Bhattacharjee deep in the heart of Manipur, demystifying a state that was once just a source of ‘news’ for him. He delves into public memory, digging up collective histories to bring to life a people forgotten by their fellow-countrymen, of women hardened by constant hardship and of a youth struggling to merge their multiple identities. These tales are the result of a long and unflinching look into Manipur’s past and present – a land rich in tradition, culture and violence – and of a people who stage their own daily rebellion by living and thriving against all odds.

Review:

There are three reasons why I picked this book to read. First, of course the author. Having grown up hearing him report news, he was always an enigma. Secondly, I firmly believe that if a book is written by a journalist, it has to be read for the sheer experience of precise, to the point language, authentic information and good language. I haven't been proven wrong in this belief, so far. And lastly, north east India. Being from the eat, with very sparse roots which crawl in to north east India, I have been very curious about the seven states, since as long as I can remember. Visiting is on the charts, but reading about the culture, the people, the atrocities faced, the food etc is anyday more interesting.

In Che in Paona Bazaar, Bhattacharjee has spoken about his times in the north east states of India, which he spent as a reporter. So what he had to say was very in depth yet of the grass root level. This book talks mostly about Manipur - their food, music, clothes, militants, student agitations - one actually gets a look into Manipur through the author's eyes.. 
The narration is the book, stole my heart. Instead of making it sound like a documentary, Bhattacharjee narrated it in the words of an imaginary character Eshei. A character, carefully created, Eshei talks about growing up in a dysfunctional society, love, aspirations, expectations, violence etc. From learning how and why Manipur has a strong Korean influence, to learning about the tribes, to how the Army is over there, their clothes - basically, learning how and what the Manipur and it's people are. The title chapter explained how Paona Bazaar got it's name. Reading about trade in this region was particularly interesting.

Everything is fascinating, but what is gnawing in my mind is - how difficult and uncertain life can be. Living bang in the center of India, where no one can bother my existence, it wasn't pleasant to read how constantly lives are interfered with. I have always believed I am a liberal. But since the time I finished reading this book, I am realising the stereotypes I have deep seeded in my mind.

I seriously feel all of us should read this book, every Indian should. It's time we know more about our countrymen and start accepting everyone as one. Because life isn't easy everywhere.

Rating: *****/5

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

#BookReview : Once Upon A Crush by Kiran Manral

On the jacket:

Rayna De has a lot of things going for her. Not that they're necessarily going well, of course. Her thirties are approaching fast, and her boss could give Satan a run for his money. Her romance life, well, that's non-existent. When Devan Ahuja enters the workplace, Rayna quickly falls head over heels for him. She tries telling herself otherwise, that he's out of her league, but it doesn't work. Why would he look at her anyway? He does have a model-turned-actress for a girlfriend and they seem to be quite happy, what with the page three supplement article which claim so. Her parents aren't helping, not in the least by waving the photographs of Sid Bose in her face, multi-zero salary package, three bedroom house et. al. Rayna thinks things couldn't get more confusing. She needs to think again, for fate has other plans.

Review:
 
A story about twenty-nine year old Rayna De, single, free-spirited, in a dead end job with a monster for a boss and no love life. A Kolkata girl, now living in Bombay, Rayna is what a lot of us can identify with. The book begins with her best friend, Pixie, planning to run away from home for a couple of week, to catch a breather from all the marriage talks at her home. She plans to shack in at Rayna's place and our protagonist is not very thrilled with playing host to her runaway friend, for fear of being questioned herself.

So we have  Rayna, suck with a runaway friend, a family which is giving hope on her for not being married yet, a monster of a boss and no love life. Enter Deven Ahuja. And Rayna's heart, mind and all her insides go animated, come out of her body and do their own thing. But, the woman in his life seems to be the gorgeous model Sharbari Raina.
So now Rayna has a huuuge crush on Deven, whose behaviour leaves her confused, is to say it mildly. Meanwhile. he parents have put in front of her, a Sid Bose, all with a fat pay pack and three bedroom house.

Written in a very witty manner, the author is well known for, Rayna's story, as I said, is something a lot of us can relate with. A plot that has been oft repeated, Manral manages to give it a new flavour. Lots of confusions, misunderstandings, and our regular life mishaps later, does Rayna end up with the gorgeous Deven or Sid, with a dependable groom profile?

If you like quick read chick lits, you should give Rayna De's story a read!

Rating: ****/5

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

#BookReview : Governance for Growth in India by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

On the jacket:

As India chooses its 16th Lok Sabha in 2014, and voters across the country are debating and discussing matters related to governance and elections, this book, from someone who has observed our national life at close quarters, is a visionary statement for every citizen to read and understand. Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who was India’s eleventh President, and has been a scientist, a technocrat, a teacher and thinker, brings his vast experience and keen eye for detail to bear in discussing various aspects of governance. He articulates a vision for India and what each citizen must do to make it a reality—it is only by being honest, morally upright, and by working hard that we can achieve the mission of a developed India. Dr Kalam also proposes realistic, step-by-step solutions to issues of corruption, governance and accountability. Optimistic, progressive and positive, he dreams of an India that can achieve wholesome development for every citizen. Farsighted yet practical, 'Governance for Growth in India' is a timely roadmap for every citizen to imbibe so that they can exercise their franchise in a thoughtful, analytical manner and bring about real change in India.

Review:

 In this introduction, Dr Kalam talks about the time when he was in Punjab to address and interact with students, when a  group asked him something on the lines of - why do we need to vote when we know none of the contenders are suitable for the position. Answering their query, gave birth to this book. At a time when we have a recently elected prime minister and widespread views for and against all leading parties of the country, this book comes as a guide for voters/citizens.

The thing about Dr Kalam's books is that when he has something to say, the reader listens (reads). I know, I do. Every word written comes as a word of wisdom and only benefits the reader; a result of years or experience of a learned man. In this book, he talks about igniting the faith of the voter, the role of youth in governance, creative leadership, good governance  and then he moves on to what is bothering the average Indian the most - corruption.

I wish more people could have read this book before we voted, because of the clarity of thought it creates. Yet, better late than never!

Rating: ****

#BookReview : Path of the Swan: The Maitreya Chronicles Part 1 by Charu Singh

On the jacket:

 A moment of intense silence followed and then the Rigden spoke up, his voice even: Lama Nyima Ozer, Prince Narasimha Miyi Senge, Prince A-Karo, the Golden One, Yeshe Nam Lha and last, but not least, young Tashi Thendup! You have all been called today before the sacred court and from now, in every breath, in every heartbeat, in the shadow of every moment, in the intensity of the thoughtless state, in life and in not-life, in physical or subtle form, we declare you our emissaries, our sacred envoys to the world of men. Shambhala has a task for you. For you will be Shambhalas hand in the age that is now upon men' Path of the Swan, first part of the surreally beautiful Tibetan-Buddhist fantasy series The Maitreya Chronicles, follows the travels of Lama Ozer and his novitiate Tashi as they leave the hidden monastery where they have lived all their lives, in answer to a call received by the lama while deep in trance, from the legendary kingdom of Shambala. Battling the freezing cold and snow of high, mist-laden mountain passes and the many dark forces that thwart their progress, they trek through Sikkim and Tibet to arrive at the legendary Silver Fortress in a remote part of western Tibet. Shedding their corporeal forms they meet a host of divine and dark celestial beings including the golden dakini, Yeshe Nam Lha, daughter of the Goddess Tara; Prince A-KarO, heir to the Lha Empire; and Prince Narasimha heir to the Rigdens and the Shambala legacy. Both the princes are Yeshis guardians and suitors and she must travel with them to Earth. Once here, it is decreed, she will choose one of them and her child Maitreya, the saviour, will be born. Tashis role is that of confidant and friend and Ozers mission is to be the liaison between Shambala and Earth. But, before that happens they must combat the Asur forces and the dark prince, Arden, who holds Yeshe captive, bewitched by his brooding menace, trapped in his thrall. Drawing richly from the vast pantheon of otherworldly beings that populate the myths of the Mahayan school of Buddhism, Part 1 of The Maitreya Chronicles is a surreal and mesmerizing account of the battle between the dark forces and the celestials and the descent of the celestials to Earth.

Review:

The latest entrant in the mythological genre of the Indian literary scene is The Maitreya Chronicles by Charu Singh. Path of the Swan is the first book of the series.

The contents of the book might comes as something new and to learn about for people who don't know much about Buddhism. Singh has taken insporation from Vajrayana Buddhism, a form of Mahayana Buddhism practiced in the Himalayas. I don't know about you but monasteries have always charmed me and I find visiting them extremely uplifting for the mood.Sikkim being my favourite place to visit in the entire Indian subcontinent, reading Path of the Swan only made the images created by the story, come alive. Singh has literally used words and painted a beautiful Himalayan picture.

Lama Ozer and his novitiate Tashi leave the monastery in search of the kingdom of Shambala. Singh weaves a plot so beautiful and enchanting that I don't think I can do justice to it by reviewing the story. It was good to know about the  philosophy of Vajrayana Buddhism as well. 

In one word, fascinating. Well, enchanting too.

Rating: *****/5

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

#Book Review : Kingdom Come by Aarti V. Raman

On the jacket:

How do you kill a man with no Achilles heel? You cut off his foot Tom Jones. Set against the serene beauty of Kashmir, Ladakh and Tibet, Kingdom Come is a gripping story of death and loss, vengeance and retribution, love and life. Krivi Iyer is an embittered former spy and bomb defusal expert with only one regret. That he couldn't catch The Woodpecker, a dangerous, mentally unstable bomber who ended his partner's family. He has a second chance to go after his arch enemy with the arrival of Ziya Maarten, the manager of 'Goonj Business Enterprises' in Srinagar, Kashmir, who is alleged to be The Woodpecker's sister. Except, Ziya is a beautiful distraction and not a terrorist's sister. When a tragedy in London tears Ziya's life apart, she can only rely on Krivi to give her the absolution and vengeance she needs to move on. Between training to be an anti-terrorist squad member and finding The Woodpecker, Ziya uncovers the secrets of Krivi's tormented past. But will two tortured souls find the courage to love?

Review:

First take a look at the cover of this book. A couple in love, a blast, mountains and snow. To tell you the truth, I wasn't very sure about what to expect in this book. Then I saw, that the books comes with praises from author Ravi Subramanian. Now that's something! I wanted to know if the book holds a candle to the praises it got, and I was happy with what I read inside.

Set in Kashmir, this is not a book about Jehadis, mind you. Instead, this book is a thriller, a nail biting thriller heavily peppered with a love story. A romantic thriller, and there aren't many such out there. The author has done a successful job of teaming thriller with romance.

Krivi, our male lead is out on a mission to save a young girl. Set in Kashmir, yet amidst a lot of violence, a romance develops. Krivi and Ziya are as opposite in characters as chalk and cheese, yet the sexual tension between them is difficult to ignore. Having had a faily stable life until he faced death in the form of losing his partner & friend to death, Krivi was a warrior. Ziya, having had an unstable childhood, is a very strong woman. Reading about each character and following how their mind works, throws light on how the author has planned and created them. Very well defined characters and a smooth plot, alternating between romance and thriller. We have an antagonist, a scary one at that too!  A very good debut attempt!

Rating: ****/5

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

#BookReview : When Hari Met His Saali by Harsh Warrdhan

On the jacket: 

The only magical thing missing from her life… happened to her sister!
His idea of romance is that it is unnecessary.

Tia was in love with her career and her lifestyle in America. And she was madly in love with Hari. But where was the romance she craved?

Simi was the young girl left behind in a small town in India who hadn’t seen her sister for years. She was a dreamer. But what did she really want out of life?

And then there was Hari. Straight-forward and uncomplicated, it felt like nothing he did was ever good enough for Tia. But didn’t every man want an ambitious and successful wife no matter how demanding they were?

Theirs was a love story that was never going to be conventional. But what happened to Hari and Tia was something that nobody would have predicted.

Mix two sisters with bad history between them and one clueless man, to form one whacky triangle, and you get a cautionary lesson in how you should be careful of what you wish for in the name of love?

Set in Los Angeles and Nagpur, India, ‘When Hari Met His Saali’ is a funny, fresh, and outrageous look at young people and their dreams, longings, aches and heartbreaks. It is a fascinating take on the grand idea of love and the reality of romance. In a breezy, humorous narrative anchored around a magical twist, the story of Tia, Simi and Hari unfolds from romantic comedy into a climax full of suspense

Review:

 A romance novel by a male author always intrigues me. Always. When Hari Met His Saali was in my wishlist since a while, so when I got it in my hands, I started reading immediately. The cover is very interesting and gives a hint at the fun quotient of the story. But it's not all fun inside. Author Harsh Wardhan has explored the emotional and human sides to people in love, very delicately. The blurb is very interesting and attracts you to read. The story is set across two continents - US and India.

Tia Galhotra and Hari Malhotra are supposed to get married. They are poles apart and  Tia being the more dominant of the two, is all set to mould Hari as per her requirements of a husband. They have dated for six years and now plan to marry. Born in America, Hari considers himself an American. Having made her way to the States, Tia is focused and determined, knows what she wants out of life. 

Tia's family, including mother and sister Simi, live in India. Nagpur. Let's pause here. The author gets brownie points from me, for including Nagpur, my hometown, in the plot! Moving on, Tia and Hari are getting engaged and Tia has asked her family to fly down for the same. Her mother is reluctant but Simi wants to go. Simi is also Tia's opposite in every way - quiet, demure and shy. They also have a bad history.

When Simi lands in the US, to attend her sister's engagement, all three lives change. Hari falls for Simi, and how. What happens next, is worth reading about. 

Being a screenwriter himself, the author has plotted the story very effectively. Characters are well defined and one can relate to them. The two families add flavour to the plot. There is romance, and there are some laugh out loud moments in this story. Taking us from Los Angeles to Nagpur to Pondichery, this is one hell of a ride. A very promising debut.

Rating: ****/5

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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

#BookReview: The Sceptical Patriot: Exploring the Truths Behind the Zero and Other Indian Glories by Sidin Vadukut

On the jacket:
 
India. A land where history, myth and email forwards have come together to create a sense of a glorious past that is awe-inspiring...and also kind of dubious. But that is what happens when your future is uncertain and your present is kind of shitty—it gets embellished until it becomes a totem of greatness and a portent of potential. Sidin Vadukut takes on a complete catalogue of ‘India's Greatest Hits’ and ventures to separate the wheat of fact from the chaff of legend. Did India really invent the zero? Has it truly never invaded a foreign country in over 1,000 years? Did Indians actually invent plastic surgery before those insufferable Europeans? The truth is more interesting—and complicated—than you think.
 
Review:
 
In the Sceptical Patriot, author Sidin Vadukut  has taken common myths about India, added dashes of his own humour in them and revealed to us what the actual fact is. Of course, India is great, despite what is happening around us. Indians are a different ball game altogether. But, it's wise to be a patriot, after knowing the facts about our country correctly.

No, he hasn't bashed India in anyway. Vadukut has in fact put things in a new light, though some revelations were very surprising to me. Shows how much we believe of what we hear, without checking the facts.

I would also want to add, this book is not for everyone. Vadukut hasn't written the book in your regular, everyone can read cover to cover in three hours flat. You'l need patience, and I suggest you garner some, because lying amongst the pages of this book, are some good to know facts, a brilliant style of writing, clever doses of wit and some myth busters. I am curious to know if someone has come up and counter argued on any of the points, yet!

The book comes along at a very ideal time, when the prerequisite of being a patriot is to follow someone, or hate someone else. It's high time we shuffle through our own hearts and minds, what we really understand about our country. What I loved is, how well researched the book is and the ways Vadukut went about with his research. Also, elated to see him try a different genre and do it so well. Hope he does more of that! Another thing I loved was anecdotes from the author's personal life, woven in the pages. 
 
Oh, and the last two chapters are the best! Don't miss them!

Rating: ****.5/5

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

Monday, May 12, 2014

#BookReview : The Mouse Charmers : Digital Pioneers of India by Anuradha Goyal

On the jacket:

 The advent of Internet has been a significant game changer for our generation. Mouse Charmers are a new breed of entrepreneurs in emerging India powered by the Internet and the opportunities that it offers to create new markets and to cater to old markets in new ways. Some of them have already achieved success where they can be called iconic and inspiring while others have powerful ideas that put them on the same path. Anuradha Goyal tells the stories of digital entrepreneurs like Flipkart, Zomato, ImagesBazaar, IndiBlogger how they started out, the innovations and technologies involved, their business models and unique marketing strategies. Inspiring and useful, The Mouse Charmers is an essential guide for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Review:

With a foreword by Sam Pitroda, Anuradha Goyal has brought together a book encompassing detailed study of how brands like Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, Zomato, RangDe etc came into being and their survival so far.

The book is broadly divided into three sections - commerce, content and connectors. The commerce section begins with a brief on e-commerce and how it came inbto being, from a small plan to now a thriving industry. And then, no surprises there, Goyal talks about Flipkart, Make My Trip, Big Basket and Carat Lane. Having been customers to all four businesses at some point of time, it was extremely interesting to read about how they emerged from just an idea, and included newer options time and again, to survive in the market. I particularly liked reading about how Flipkart got the COD facility functional. Flipping through the pages, one can see that while the book is in a way educational, it is also inspirational for those who have similar plans in mind but are unsure about how to go about!

Moving on to the section about content, we have Zomato, Games2Win, Image Bazaar and Chai With Lakshmi, each a business so different from the other, as as night and day. The basic of each business is - take something that people love, and make it even more easily accessible to them, at a cheaper price! What makes this book interesting is, well, take Zomato for example! A lot of us refer to the website, but how does the website function? More importantly, how does it strategise so that we keep going back to it? Reading about the business models, the marketing strategies etc are actually enlightening.

The third section about connectors talks about Shaadi, Rang De, Common Floor and Indiblogger. I will tell you what I loved about the book. In depth research, detailed description of the businesses written about, what worked and what did not, why so - this book has enough literature to base projects on, I suppose. If I have to pick what I didn't like, is that this is no casual read. It has some serious data and plans which not only give us an insider view of how the businesses work, but also increase our own knowhow about how to run and ebusiness.

If I am to enter into ebusiness ever, I intend to keep The Mouse Charmers on my bedside table, to pick up and flip through the pages for inspiration and ideas. 

Rating: *****/5

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

Saturday, May 10, 2014

#BookReview : It Had To Be You by Anuj Tiwari

On the jacket:

What if you don’t get what you want from life? Do you learn to live with its terms and conditions?  
Anuj, a young professional, is just getting by from day to day when the beautiful and vivacious Pakhi walks into his life and turns it upside down. 
Love blossoms and Anuj knows she is the one for him. But when all is going well, Pakhi unexpectedly leaves, causing him to lose his faith in love and happy endings.  
To shake off his depression and restart his life, he heads to Mumbai where he meets new people—the stunning Meera; rom-com specialist Vishal; the man of reasons, Rahim Chacha; and the lovely Anushka. 
With their help, he begins to put his past behind him but Fate intervenes. Will he be able to find the answers he desperately seeks and finally get closure or does life have other plans?  It Had to Be You is a story that, in its simplicity, shows us the importance of love, life, family and friendship.

Review:

Story of a software engineer, who goes into depression after the love of his life, Pakhi, disappears from his life and he is not able to cope with the void she has left. To start his life afresh, he moves to Bombay, armed with a new job. New surroundings, but Pakhi and her memories are still with him. At a point it might seem like, he doesnt want to let go of the misery he is in. He clutches on to her memories like a drowning man, reading her mails, seeing her pictures, reliving their time together in his memory.

He makes new friends in Bombay and with their help, tries to search for Pakhi. The plot transits between Bombay and Delhi, with the protagonist Anuj's travel in search of Pakhi. Does he get closure? 


The language is easy flowing, and the story could be out of the pages of lives of millions of engineers throughout the country. 

Rating: ***.5/5

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




 

Friday, May 9, 2014

#BookReview: Rise of the Sun Prince (Ramayana: The Game of Life #1) by Shubha Vilas

Rise of the Sun Prince is written by Shubha Vilas, a spiritual seeker and motivational speaker. This book is a modern rendition of the ancient Ramayana. Of late, a lot of people have started writing about and re-narrating the mythological stories, that one can be in a fix as to which author's story is nearest to the one that is believed to be authentic? I sure did have this concern but the same was erased when I read the blurb of the book. This is how it reads:
  Ramayana: The Game of Life (Book 1), one of the world's great literary masterpieces, skillfully retold for modern audiences. Epics like the Ramayana have been recounted infinite times. Is there a need for another chronicle in the presence of so many? How is this one different? And is it relevant to our ever-changing modern lives?   Yes, there is a need, yes this is different and yes, it is relevant. This new series of books, each following one khand of the Ramayana, decodes the eternal wisdom of that poetic scripture through gripping narrative and thought-provoking instruction. In the time-honored custom of spreading wisdom through tales, every fascinating story in the epic is retold here and every character unfolded to captivate your heart and open your mind to life's deepest questions.  The narrative closely follows Valmiki's Ramayana, gently weaving in folk tales as well as the beautiful analogies of the Kamba Ramayana. The first of this six-volume series, Rise of the Sun Prince, takes you through the divine story of Lord Rama from His birth up to His marriage. Through these pages are revealed the tales of Dasaratha's leadership, Vishwamitra's quest for power and the intriguing story of a little-known stone maiden. Ramayana: The Game of Life has all of this and much more - food for contemporary thought drawn from an enduring masterpiece. 
Another thing that drew me towards reading the book, is the author's credentials - a highly spiritual teacher who is bound to have years of research and knowledge behind writing this book.
A very simple yet detailed redition of the part one of our ancient scripture, the Ramayana, the book is written in a perfect manner of how stories should be.I would recommend this to be read to kids, the story is that simply, yet beautifully stated. With footnotes at the end of each page, the reading experience gets smoother, with the tidbits consisting of background and other information.
 This is how epic stories should be retold, in my opinion. Not by telling a whole new angle but telling the story that we have all heard, in a crisp narration. Rise of the Sun Prince is the first part of the 'Bala Kanda' of the story. The cover is very attractive and beautiful. It is a beautiful depiction of Ram and Lakshman guarding Vishwamitra's puja/hawan.
In my opinion, you like mythological stories or not, you have read Ramayana or not, you would surely enjoy reading  Rise of the Sun Prince.

Rating: ****/5

[This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!]



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How to Give Great Feedback to Fellow Writers

Do you cringe when a colleague hands you a manuscript? Giving feedback is an uncomfortable experience for many writers. How can you balance tact with honesty? What if you do not like the story? In my line of work at Grammarly, I examine writing to see which resources and techniques work best for writers. Authors tell me that criticism from fellow writers is extremely helpful. How can you be a valuable aid to your writing fellows? Follow the next five steps!

  • Be honest.
Falsity is cruelty in the world of feedback. Honesty, however, is not synonymous with rudeness. Share your viewpoint with tact. Keep your comments to merits and deficiencies of the writing, not the writer.


Bad colleague: You are horrible at characterization. The character you created was completely shallow and unlikable.

Better colleague: I felt that the main character was a bit shallow. At the end of the novel, I still had not connected with him.

  • Be critical.
If you take the time to read the work, take the time to give your honest opinion. If you say nothing, you will have wasted your time and failed to give your fellow author any helpful commentary. In your eyes, has the author perfected the story? Congratulate him, but consider if you could give some help in the realm of proofreading. Perform a grammar check. Circle any spelling mistakes or awkward phrases.

Bad colleague: (Silence)

Better colleague: The plot was great, but I found a few spelling mistakes.
           
  • Be prompt.
Unless you are being paid for your feedback, you might feel that it is okay to put the task on the back burner. However, if the manuscript is nearly complete, you may be the last thing standing between it and publication. If you do not have time to read the document in the following couple of days, tell the writer. He may choose to give it to someone else who has a more open schedule than you do.

Bad colleague: Sure, I will look it over! (2 weeks later) Oh, yes. I am still going to read it. I  will get it back to you soon! (2 weeks later) You know what, I haven’t read it yet….

Better colleague: I cannot read it until this weekend. Is that okay with you or do you want to try someone else?

  • Be supportive.
As writers, you and the person requesting your impressions have a lot in common. Would you benefit from attending a creative writing class together? Or, have you benefitted from a particular reference work or online resource? If you are willing to give of yourself and share resources, you will find others more willing to support you when you need it.
           
Bad colleague: You need to take an English course to get a better grasp of grammar.

Better colleague: There is a writing workshop over at the university. I bet we can both benefit from reviewing some grammar! Do you want to sign up for it together?

Make evaluating colleagues’ stories a positive experience! Be forthright, but season your words with salt. If you need to talk about the negative aspects of the novel, do not attack the writer personally. Instead, give practical advice on how to solve the issue. If possible, share how you have overcome the same challenges and offer your support. Soon, you may begin to enjoy giving valuable feedback to your fellow wordsmiths.
 
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Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

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