Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book Review: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall

On the jacket:

Vish Puri is as fond of butter chicken as the next Punjabi. And when there's plenty on offer at the Delhi Durbar hotel where he's attending an India Premier League cricket match dinner, he's the first to tuck in. Irfan Khan, father of Pakistani star cricketer Kamran Khan, can't resist either. But the creamy dish proves his undoing. After a few mouthfuls, he collapses on the floor, dead.

Clearly this isn't a case of Delhi Belly. 

But who amongst the Bollywood stars, politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists poisoned Khan is a mystery. And with the capital's police chief proving as incompetent as ever, it falls to Most Private Investigators to find out the truth. 

Puri is soon able to link Khan to a bald bookie called Full Moon and all the clues point to the involvement of a gambling syndicate that controls the illegal X billion dollars betting industry. 

The answers seem to lie in Surat, the diamond cutting and polishing capital of the world (where Puri's chief undercover operative Tubelight meets his match) and across the border in Pakistan, Puri's nemesis, the one country where he has sworn never to set foot. Or do they? A certain determined, grey-haired lady with a unique insight into the murder believes that the portly detective is barking up 'a wrong tree.' 

Is Mummy-ji right?Is there more to the murder than meets the eye? And why, to make life even more complicated for Vish Puri, has someone tried to steal the longest moustache in the world - from right under the nose of its owner? Literally. 


The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken is the third book in the Vish Puri series and the first one I read. I need to pick the previous two in the series and update myself with his adventures! 

The entire book is in a quirky and delightful tone, specially exchanges between Vish and his wife Rumpi. In one word, the book is cute. Puri is a regular Punjabi busybody who goes about solving mysteries. 

Again, I won't delve into the plot, as you can read the summary above. What was interesting was, references to the partition, Pakistan as well as Bangladesh. It's not just a comic mystery book, one does get to think a bit while reading it as well. A very well written, tight plot with abundant samplings of humour, The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken was an awesome winter evening read.

Oh, btw, in case you want any mystery solved, remember ... Vish Puri is not just a private detective, he is the most private detective!

Rating: ****/5

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: The Mysterious Mr Jacob by John Zubrzycki

On the jacket:

The scandal that rocked the Raj when in 1891, a notorious curio-dealer from Simla offered to sell the world’s largest brilliant-cut diamond to the Nizam of Hyderabad. If the audacious deal came through, the merchant would have been set up for life. But the transaction went horribly wrong. The Nizam accused him of fraud, triggering a sensational trial in the Calcutta High Court that made headlines around the world. The dealer was Alexander Malcolm Jacob, a man of mysterious origins and colourful infamy. He was India’s most successful purveyor of precious stones and was rumoured to be ‘rich almost beyond the dreams of Aladdin’. Hailed as a celebrity in his own lifetime, he was the inspiration for the shadowy Lurgan Sahib in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. A confidant of viceroys and maharajahs, he dabbled in magic and was a player in the Great Game. Yet he died in obscurity, carrying many of his secrets to his grave. In this meticulously researched account of Jacob’s life, John Zubrzycki reconstructs events through long-lost letters, court records and annotations on secret files, bringing us a riveting study of a man whose obituary in a leading daily fittingly described him as the most ‘romantic and arresting figure in our time’.


While I had heard a lot about John Zubrzycki's The Last Nizam, this was my first read by him. The synopsis, as you can read above, was pretty interesting. 

The story revolves around Alexander Jacob; and it's amazing how Zubrzycki has woven a gripping take around something he couldn't have researched much about. Going deep into history, the story is a well spun plot. The protagonist is slightly mysterious and the story also ends with a hint of mystery. 

My fingers are itching to type some spoilers, but I'l refrain. If you like reading about incidents to do with the past, or even if you just love good story telling, read The Mysterious Mr Jacob.

Rating: 5/5

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

Book Review: My Life by Brett Lee with James Knight

On the jacket:

Brett Lee is known throughout the cricketing world as one of the fastest and most exciting pace bowlers to play the game. Intimidating while charming, decent yet ferocious, he is known for his quick–one liners as much as his gutsy bottom–order batting.  He has been recorded bowling at speeds of over 100 mph leaving batsmen with only a fraction of a second to react once the ball leaves his hand. He had his first official game of cricket at the age of nine. He quickly developed into a very talented player and progressed through the cricket ranks to be in a position where he gained selection for his state at the age of 21 and his country at 24. Brett has one of the best strike–rates in the world for this form of the game. His pace bowling combined with his ability as a hard hitting and determined tail end batsman make him a crowd favourite throughout Australia and the world.


I have recently started reading (auto)biographies, and am a novice in rating them actually. Instead of treating them as someone's real life stories, I usually treat them just as what they are, stories.

I follow cricket, but I am not a crazy fan. Brett Lee is someone people like me know not only for his master sportsmanship on the field, but also for his singing and drop-dead gorgeous looks! So, what's the story behind that gorgeous mind? With this thought, I picked up My Life.

The book is extensive and covers a lot of Lee's life, right from his childhood to his present day life. It's honest, engaging and quite witty. Lee has visited India more than 40 times and the book contains many excerpts of his experiences here. 

As a reader, it made no difference to me that I do not follow cricket like a regular fan does. All in all, as a book, it is an excellent, extensive read, the best part being the dashes of humour here and there.

My rating: *****/5

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes by Betsy Woodman

On the jacket:

Meet Jana Bibi, a Scottish woman helping to save the small town in India she has grown to call home and the oddball characters she considers family

Janet Laird's life changed the day she inherited her grandfather's house in a faraway Indian hill station. Ignoring her son's arguments to come grow old in their family castle in Scotland, she moves with her chatty parrot, Mr. Ganguly and her loyal housekeeper, Mary, to Hamara Nagar, where local merchants are philosophers, the chief of police is a tyrant, and a bagpipe-playing Gurkha keeps the wild monkeys at bay. Settling in, Jana Bibi (as she comes to be known) meets her colorful local neighbors—Feroze Ali Khan of Royal Tailors, who struggles with his business and family, V.K. Ramachandran, whose Treasure Emporium is bursting at the seams with objects of unknown provenance, and Rambir, editor of the local newspaper, who burns the midnight oil at his printing press. When word gets out that the town is in danger of being drowned by a government dam, Jana is enlisted to help put it on the map. Hoping to attract tourists with promises of good things to come, she stacks her deck of cards, readies her fine-feathered assistant—and Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes is born.


What attracted me to the book, was the title. It somehow set my imagination on flight, where I created my own setting of a small town by the hills. To know what the story actually was about, I had to read the book, which I did!

The summary, as you can read above, suggests a good, leisure read. And that's exactly what Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes  is. I encompasses the reader in it's warmth and after a few pages, I felt I was actually looking on to the images that the author was building, as a bystander. 

Janet MacPherson Laird, fondly called Jana Bibi,and her parrot Mr Ganguly. This is enough to hint that the characters are eccentric. The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency is by far the cutest and funniest I have read about.

All in all a very good read, I plan to check out other books by Woodman now.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: How About A Sin Tonight? by Novoneel Chakravorty

On the jacket:

In the biggest casting coup of the Hindi film industry, five top stars are signed up for a new movie: Shahraan—a living legend still lamenting the loss of his first love; Reva and Neev—newcomers allied in a common journey; Nishani—the celebrity kid who must avenge her father’s untimely death; and Kaash—the actor harbouring a secret love from his past. As their intimately intertwined personal stories take centre stage, the industry’s underbelly is left exposed for all to see. By the time the curtain draws to a close, the gossip-hungry media has enough fodder on its plate to last a lifetime.

Novoneel Chakraborty, bestselling author of A Thing beyond Forever and That Kiss in the Rain, unveils the grime behind the glitz, the insecurities and compromises, in a world where aspirants come prepared to strike a Faustian bargain. A beguiling tale of love, ambition, jealousy, and betrayal, How About a Sin Tonight? will leave you asking for more.


Just when I was getting comfortable reading new age Indian authors and beginning to appreciate their efforts and thought processes, I was disappointed. After reading How About A Sin Tonight? I am seriously back at square one, wondering why I even bothered to pick it up. What I had picked up assuming to be a light, easy read was actually a struggle finishing. I haven't read the author's previous books, so did not have any pre-conceived notions about his style of writing.

The story begins with a sex scene. The entire chapter seemed pretentious, as if the author had it set in his mind that *sex sells*, so if the first few pages are about it, the book will too. The sex scene was loosely scripted, and is, neither crass nor subtle. 

The story is about five stars, and begins with Shahraan's tale. Remember, Sanjay Dutt-Pooja Bhatt starring Sadak? Yes, about the same thing, with unnecessary and complicated twists. The plot does get better and is given comparatively finer treatment, but where the first 20 odd pages have been such a turn off, it's difficult to hold the willingness to read it. It takes some patience to tread through the web of characters, and I must admit, the author has almost handled them perfectly. 

Lost of usage of metaphors and subtexts, the book *might* not be as easy to read for a casual reader. At other parts, the language seemed very wannabe. 

My rating: 2.5/5

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

Books and me - I

Home alone, this winter night, after my evening bath, as I tucked myself in my warm blanket, to lie down and read, images of my childhood flashed through my mind.

Books have been my companions from even before I could read. And even now I possess each book that I have ever bought or been gifte; that's how much I love them. Before the alphabets and numbers entered my life, there were the picture books. My father had got me these two sets of books, one about animals and one about the flora & the fauna. My favourite was this particular book about horses. I was a little over one, when I fell in love with them. I still am. Horses are the most gorgeous, fastest and the most lovable of animals, in my opinion. If I could, I would have owned and lived in a ranch. Actually, I do ... but that's a story I'l share some other day.

Maa has always been a book addict. I have grown up hearing stories of how she, as a little girl, would gulp (yes, gulp) books after books. Thanks to her, this is one of the best things I got genetically.

About a little later, before I turned 3, I was introduced to stories. Books with fairy tales, and lots of photos! That was my first introduction to Cinderella, Thumbelina, Snow White, Rapunzel, Hansel & Gretel and the whole lot of characters who became a part of my life. Maa would read me the stories while I looked on to the pictures, imagining them! This was when my imagination took it's first flight. When not being read too, and not playing either, I would spin stories of my own in my mind, with my favourite characters as my playmates.

In case you haven't guessed yet, I am the only child. Hence, a special love for fictional characters. They've always been my playmates. Even in the middle of the night when it was thundering outside, and I didn't want to look like a chicken, running to my parents' room! Unlike regular Indian customs, I had been sleeping in my own room, from the age of 4. I very distinctly remember, when I would wake up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep, I would close my eyes and imagine a tea party with my fictional friends. The next morning, I would wake up with a broad grin on my face, and tell Maa all about my dream (if I could remember it, at all!).

Soon, I was given a thick, fat copy of the Andersons' Fairy Tales. I was five then, and learning to read sentences. I remember starting with reading one paragraph of a story and then Maa reading me the rest, slowly progressing to me reading an entire story.

Call it my imagination or my retardation, it's pretty vivid and can keep me occupied for hours at an end. And, thanks to it, I am always content alone. That's not a bad thing actually, you know!

More soon...

Disclaimer: If you haven't been introduced to books since almost birth, the above *might* not make any sense to you. Now worries, eh!

Book Review: The Bottom Line by Sonu VC

On the jacket:

Understanding life has never been easy. Life unfolds new and different colours every now and then. Although it is not that complex but it is not that simple too.

“The Bottom Line” gives you a pause and takes you a step back from your current state so that you can visualise the broader perspectives of life and think about the very purpose of your existence.

About the author:

Sonu V C is an HR professional and is presently associated with VivaKi India, part of a French Multinational Publicis Groupe. He became one of the members of the advisory board of ASHA (Association for Social Health and Advancement), an NGO at the age of 21. He also moved on to become a certified trainer from ISTD (Indian Society for Training and Development) at a pretty young age of 25. He has conducted a number of training programmes/workshops on Team Building, Personality Development, Leadership Development and Effective Communication Skills for organisations like Ambuja Realty, Advance Group of Companies etc.

Recently, he has started Deepika Foundation, an organisation which aims at bringing light in the lives of many by working in the areas of education, health and livelihood.


I am not a fan of self-help books at all, and to be frank I was a bit sceptical about review The Bottom Line. 

Simple language, reader friendly guidelines and a quick read, The Bottom Line puts forward some of the basic questions we come up in our minds. Spread across 104 pages and four sections, it does get a reader thinking about what and who we really are.

The Bottom Line  is not the end to all your questions, but like it did to me, it will surely trigger off many questions in you mind, pushing you to speculate and find answers. The good part about the book is, it doesn't talk about only the *what* and the *how* to do, but also about the *why* to do so!

The book could have been more extensive, but I expect, now that the author has established his foot in this genre, we would be getting more from him. As it is, in The Bottom Line, he has put across life's basic philosophies in very crisp and clear presentation, making it a nice, quick read.

My rating: ***/5

Book Source : Author
Publisher : World Book Company
Genre : Self Help/Philosophy
ISBN : 978-93-82417-19-4

Book Review: Untruly Yours by Smita Shetty

On the jacket:

To some, Natasha Iyer has it all - Living the life of an affluent NRI, wife of a prominent Psychologist and mother to a cheeky 11 year old. However, behind closed doors, cracks are beginning to appear in her seemingly comfortable relationship with her professionally consumed husband, Rakesh. Although Rakesh seems content with his alpha neatness-fetish-melodramatic wife and bright son; Natasha yearns for romance, passion and excitement. Ironically, the Psychologist husband fails to read between the lines and Natasha is left to her own devices to deal with her unresolved emotions.

An unexpected call from India takes her through a journey of self-discovery with her devastatingly handsome work colleague, Steve. She uncovers in some aspects urban India has changed considerably but equally, deep-rooted social issues still prevail in the so called modern, educated, changing society. A chance encounter with her 'blast from the past' - Veer, adds to the emotional roller coaster ride. Her one-man-woman status of many years has failed to equip her with vital tools to deal with the unanticipated surge of attention from Steve and Veer. As she attempts to master the finer points of courtship, flirtation and seduction; her life spirals out of control. Natasha is compelled to make tough decisions about her love, friendship, marriage and parenthood.


Smita mailed in a couple of weeks earlier requesting a review. Her name was not new to me as a friend and a fellow blogger had already reviewed her book and spoken highly about it. I immediately gave a nod, would love to review the book.

The story revolves around the protagonist, a Bengali girl and the characters in her life, mainly her Tamilian mother-in-law. It was hilarious, and being in an inter-caste marriage myself, one does get to identify with nuances of such relationships.

The plot revolves around love, friendship, parenthood and marriage, and Natasha is seen at a crossroad where she has to take her own decision. There might not be anything strikingly new about the plot, but the treatment Smita has given to it, makes Untruly Yours an interesting read.

As I always say, I would not get into the nitty-gritty of the story and give spoilers, the summary of the story can be read above. There are some sub-plots which have been handled very nicely and fit in very well with the main plot.

As an author, it would be interesting to see what Smita comes up with next. I am intrigued and waiting ...

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: The Edge Of The Machete by Abhisar Sharma

On the jacket:

Goal: To eliminate Aamir Sherzai, the new whiz-kid in the Pakistan-wing of the Taliban. 

Means: A CIA operative Ed Gomez, on a mission to get even with Aamir Sherzai, responsible for the execution of his best buddy and fellow agent, Jason. 

Location: The Beast, somewhere in the Khyber, Pakistan. 

To eliminate Jasons killer, Gomez has to infiltrate a conglomeration of the most ferocious terror outfits in The Beast as Sarfaraz Khan. But as the boundaries between Gomez and Sarfaraz blur, the CIA agent must not only plunge headlong into the battle in the Khyber, but also wage a war within. Simultaneously, Indian journalist Rahul Sharma, kidnapped and held hostage within The Beast, must find a way back to the woman he loves. And British white Muslim, Shaun Marsh aka Shahid Khan, sucked into the gathering at the Khyber, must learn to exorcise the ghosts of the past. 

Most of all, all three must try to escape the edge of Aamir Sherzais machete. Will they get away unscathed? Or meet a fate similar to Jasons? Find out in this captivating thriller! 


When The Edge Of The Machete came up for review, I was intrigued. I had already heard good things about the book from a friend, and the synopsis seemed interesting. I googled the book and the author a bit, and decided I had to read the book. To tell you the truth, I haven't read Sharma's first book The Eye of the Predetor, and while I would have preferred to read it first, The Edge Of The Machete landed at my doorstep before it. 

If you have been reading my book review regularly, or you are aware of my reading habit, you would know how vary I am of reading new age Indian authors. One famous author has spoilt the image in my mind, and I had stopped reading Indian authors for a while. Recently, I have started reading them, I make sure they are not highly referred to by casual or new readers and I am trying to find my own set of favourite, 21st century, Indian authors. Of late, all authors I have read, have surprised me pleasantly. As did Abhisar Sharma.

On the other hand, I believe, journalists make very good authors. We are already trained in creating tight plots with precision! Sharma kept my belief intact.

The Edge Of The Machete is a page-turner. I will not get into the depth of the story, you can read the summary above, but it is a sure-shot hit! A book that opens with a crime being committed (here, a brutal murder of a CIA agent), has done half it's job of keeping me glued to it's pages. There have been times when I have been tempted to sneak a peak at the last pages, as the suspense was killing, but I held on to it patiently!

The plot in The Edge Of The Machete has been spun cleverly, not allowing the pace to slack at any point. The language is good, simple and correct. The editor in me keeps looking for editorial and/or proofreading errors in books I read, but The Edge Of The Machete definitely didn't show any signs of those either!

Sub-plots within the main plots have been treated well, and at no point did I, as a reader, lose track of the sequence of incidents in the story. The characters have been very well defined and fit in the plot with perfection, there is no faffing or repetition to fill pages. Probably the only trouble I had with reading this book was, the fonts are too small. As it is, I wear glasses, I had to strain my eyes. Maybe, that can be sorted in the next print?

Rating: ****/5
Book       The Edge of the Machete
Author    Abhisar Sharma
ISBN       9381626677
Binding    Paperback
Publishing Date  2012
Publisher  Westland
Number of Pages 342
Language English

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program of Participate now to get free books! The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.

Book Review: Aftertaste by Namita Devidayal

On the jacket:

Diwali 1984. Mummyji, the matriarch of a prosperous mithai business family, lies comatose in a Bombay hospital. Manipulative, determined, and seemingly invincible, Mummyji has held together her family through bribes of money, endless food, and adoration.

Surrounding her are her four children: the weak and ineffectual Rajan Papa who is desperately in need of cash; Sunny, the dynamic head of the business with an ugly marriage and a demanding mistress; Suman, the spoilt beauty of the family who is determined to get her hands on Mummyji’s best jewels; and Saroj, Suman’s unlucky sister, who has always lived in her shadow. Each one of them wants Mummyji to die.

Aftertaste tells the story of one business family and its bitter dynamics: of resentful bahus, emasculated sons, controlling mothers-in-law, and rapacious siblings. For at the heart of family lies money, not love. Full of rare period details and insights into the world of Baniya families, Aftertaste is worldly, astute, and utterly riveting.


Aftertaste is a story about the Todarmal family, a quintessential baniya family settled in Punjab since a few generations, and hence adapted the culture in their living and lifestyle. Initially, reading about Todarmals and then their charcaters being referred to as Mummyji and Daddyji, typically used in Punjabi households, was a bit odd. This aspect take time sinking in.

I had read The Music Room and was so impressed that I picked up, Aftertaste. Frankly, I was disappointed. A saga of a business joint-family where the mother holds the reigns, the children are dissatisfied and constantly vying for more.

Daddyji is already dead when this story begins, and Mummyji  is fighting for her life, in a hospital bed. The four children have their own troubles and situations in their lives. Only Mummyji has complete control over the money, but all four children need/want it. With Mummyji fighting for life, all four of her children and their families are secretly wishing/hoping for her death.

There is absolutely nothing new in the plot, and after a masterpiece like The Music Room, this was a tad disappointing. It's just the plot that was disappointing, the style of writing was enjoyable.

My rating: ***/5

ISBN         : 9788184001877
Pub Date : 15 Sep 2011
Binding : Paperback
Price         : 199
Imprint : Random House India
Subject : General & Literary Fiction
Extent : 320

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

On the jacket:

In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, an anxious twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, forced to run from Coos County–to Boston, to southern Vermont, to Toronto–pursued by the implacable constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them.

In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River–John Irving’s twelfth novel–depicts the recent half-century in the United States as “a living replica of Coos County, where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.” From the novel’s taut opening sentence–“The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long”–to its elegiac final chapter, Last Night in Twisted River is written with the historical authenticity and emotional authority of The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is also as violent and disturbing a story as John Irving’s breakthrough best seller, The World According to Garp.

What further distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author’s unmistakable voice–the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller. Near the end of this moving novel, John Irving writes: “We don’t always have a choice how we get to know one another. Sometimes, people fall into our lives cleanly–as if out of the sky, or as if there were a direct flight from Heaven to Earth–the same sudden way we lose people, who once seemed they would always be part of our lives.”


I've never read Irving before, except for being a fan of The Cider House Rules, which I used to be a fan of. 

Last Night in Twisted River is a beautiful, violent, funny, heartbreaking, intense, and sentimental novel. The novel is a bit too long, Irving seems to have a tendency to ramble which I found later when I discussed his books with a friend who is a fan. There are also some boring, overly detailed accounts of irrelevant topics such as logging logistics, types of food, highway roads, and ethnic origins.

If these aspects can be ignored, Last Night in Twisted River is an amazing read; the storytelling and characters make this novel. Irving writes through the eyes of a child exceptionally well.  Irving references himself and his critics throughout the book, in this story of 3 men covering 50 years of their lives. The synopsis above would give you a fair idea of the plot, the way Irving weaves the tale is a pleasure to read.

As a book lover, I am kicking myself for not having read more of Irving earlier. I plan to rectify it soon, I suggest you read him up too!

Rating: ****/5

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Aerogrammes by Tania James

On the jacket:

From the highly acclaimed author of Atlas of Unknowns (“Dazzling . . . One of the most exciting debut novels since Zadie Smith’s White Teeth”—San Francisco Chronicle; “An astonishment of a debut”—Junot Díaz), a bravura collection of short stories set in locales as varied as London, Sierra Leone, and the American Midwest that captures the yearning and dislocation of young men and women around the world.

In “Lion and Panther in London,” a turn-of-the-century Indian wrestler arrives in London desperate to prove himself champion of the world, only to find the city mysteriously absent of challengers. In “Light & Luminous,” a gifted dance instructor falls victim to her own vanity when a student competition allows her a final encore.  In “The Scriptological Review: A Last Letter from the Editor,” a young man obsessively studies his father’s handwriting in hopes of making sense of his death. And in the marvellous “What to Do with Henry,” a white woman from Ohio takes in the illegitimate child her husband left behind in Sierra Leone, as well as an orphaned chimpanzee who comes to anchor this strange new family.

With exuberance and compassion, Tania James once again draws us into the lives of damaged, driven, and beautifully complicated characters who quietly strive for human connection.


A book of short stories from someone who is considerably new in this genre of writing, makes me apprehensive, as it is. But, the synopsis seemed interesting as well. So, despite not having read James before, I picked up Aerogrammes and other stories

Aerogrammes has been a brilliant read, over the last weekend. A book that includes a ghost story, dy humour, drama, intrigue, adventure, to an extent mystery, and love, all mixed into an amazing concoction!

On of the stories, Lion and Panther in London is about a very interesting wrestling championship while Girl Marries Ghost is about a girl who meets a ghost, who wants to marry her, so he can return to the physical world. The title story, Aerogramme is a story of a father in an old age home, waiting for his son's weekly visits.

The other six stories center on identity, loss, redemption, and love and span across London, India and the US. James's story telling is simple, and the plots easy to understand. The stories have a feel good feeling and ideal for the winter afternoons.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: Custody by Manju Kapur

On the jacket:

Raman is a fast rising marketing executive at a global drinks company; Shagun is his extraordinarily beautiful wife. With his glittering future, her vivid beauty, and their two adorable children—eight year old Arjun who looks just like her and two year old Roohi who looks just like him—the pair appear to have everything. Then Shagun meets Raman’s dynamic new boss Ashok and everything changes. 

Once lovers and companions, husband and wife become enemies locked in an ugly legal battle over their two children. Caught in their midst is the childless Ishita who is in love with the idea of motherhood. Custody is the riveting story of how family-love can disintegrate into an obsession to possess children, body and soul, as well as a chilling critique of the Indian judicial system. Told with nuance, sympathy, and clear-sightedness, it confirms Manju Kapur’s reputation as the great chronicler of the modern Indian family. 


Picking a Manju Kapur book without giving it any thought, is natural. It's a pity she hasn't written a lot. Custody, Kapur's latest, is yet another good read.

The day before I started reading Custody, I had come to know about a friend's husband cheating on her. Disturbed, I already was, initially, I wasn't sure if I would want to go ahead and read the entire book. Infertility and Infidelity, two things which depress me, are the main streams of Custody. Revolving around four main characters, Raman, his wife Shagun, his boss and later Shagun's second husband Ashok, and Ishita, Raman's parents' neighbour's daughter and his second wife, the story transitions from event to event, very smoothly.

Talking of the jet-set travelling, big-buck earning, private sector executives and how their busy schedules affect their lives, Custody, takes a dip into the Indian societies reaction to infertility, and how despite our best judgements, we let the society and it's norms govern our lives.

The story is sad, but it will not break your heart. Events and pratical and justified and not stretched. One of the best parts about a Manju Kapoor novel, is the characters she spins. Like in Custody,  you can very well imagine the characters, in the Delhi localities mentioned, going about their day!

My rating: ****/5

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review: Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra

On the jacket: 

Autistic. Schizophrenic. Psychotic... 

They use these words to describe Babloo the doctors, his family, his teachers everyone except Vandana. She treats him the way he wants the world to see him. 

Mumbai the city that defines his ultimate desires. Will it allow him the love and normalcy he so craves?

Vandana yearns for a soul mate to rescue her from the confines of the Railway Colony they all live in. Is she looking in the right place?

Rail Man a fearless, real-life hero who succeeds in doing all that Babloo secretly wishes to do is Babloo his inspiration or is it the other way around?

A random twist of fate on Mumbais endless, serpent-like, jangling local train tracks ties all these characters together in a complex weave of love, heartbreak, and courage. 

Babloo draws the reader into his fascinating, heart-rending journey through the twisted, choked lanes of Mumbai, into an open space where he can finally exhale, be born again.


Okay, this was yet another surprise. I will not give spoilers on the story, you can get a hint of what it is about in the section above. 

I wasn't very sure how the book would be, but I actually enjoyed reading it. So much, that once it was over, I spent a few minutes visualising and imagining the characters and how their future would shape! That definitely calls for a thumbs up, right!

Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai is a light read, where the plots and sub-plots have been very nicely spun. Good, simple language and characters to identify with at some levels, make it enjoyable for average Indian readers. The author got into the protagonist Babloo's head so well, that as a reader, after a point, I started thinking like he would, as the story progressed. 

The story gives the reader an understanding of perspective from an autistic's point of view, and how while Babloo isn't able to react visibly to everything, his mind is reacting to it all. How Babloo's life changes, is extremely interesting. And, as I mentioned earlier, one will be left wondering, what happened to Babloo and Vandana after the story ends, how did their life progress.

My rating ****/5

Book Source : Author
Publisher : Jaico Publishing House
Genre : Fiction
ISBN : 978-81-8495-305-3

[This is an author requested reviewThe opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review: The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian

On the jacket:

The uneasy calm in Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2) is shattered when a series of murders rock the façade of the compliant and conforming bank that GB2 has built up over the years. Who is to blame? Who is driving these intriguing and bone chilling murders? What is the motive behind these gruesome killings? No one has a clue.

And when Karan Panjabi, a press reporter and an ex-banker digs deeper, he realizes that he has stumbled on a global conspiracy with far reaching ramifications - a secret that could destroy not only the bank but cast a shadow on the entire nation. With only thirty-six hours at his disposal, he is running out of time and must trust no one if he wants to stay alive and uncover the truth. 

In the racy build up to unraveling the mystery, stranger than fiction characters emerge, faith get shattered and ivory towers come crashing down. Bankers build their careers on trust, or so everyone thought - till the day the truth within GB2 gets revealed. Is the banker at GB2 fast turning into a Bankster? Or was he always one? 

Spinning an intricate web of lies, deceit and treachery, bestselling author Ravi Subramanian is back. A master storyteller of financial crime, this is his most chilling thriller yet


I had never read Subramanian before, so when the opportunity came up, I wanted to. I was curious, what can be so good about his books. To be referred to as the Grisham of banking is no easy feat. I am an ardent Grisham fan and I know how much of intricacies his court room dramas delve into. So well, I got my hands on The Banker and the summary on the jacket seemed interesting. Now to test.

I was pleasantly surprised, the book surpassed all expectations. I am a little critical of new age Indian authors, personally. Not because they cannot write well, but so many have mushroomed in the last decade that it gets really difficult to lay hands on a real good read. Word of mouth has always proved to be disastrous for me. This time however, I got to read an excellent, fast-paced thriller. 

All on 358-pages, unravels a web of mystery linking a covert CIA agent, an anti-nuclear power plant protest in India and a series of death of a certain bank’s employees. I have read quite a few books where the author is dealing with parallel episodes and fails to link and transition to them, smoothly.

A page-turner with fantastic characters, the best part is that there wasn’t much of the banking mumbo-jumbo & jargon being used. I was initially apprehensive that I might not enjoy the book, and only bankers would, but I was wrong.

The only bit that was a *bit* difficult to digest, for me personally, was the press reporter, Karan, connecting the dots and solving the problem so swiftly. Yes, the author did indicate in his background that Karan can, still, it didn't convince me much. Another thing was where in the bit about Kerala, there was mention of elephant tusks but soon the story moves on to nuclear power plant problems. Over here, I was a bit confused and had to turn back a few pages to keep abreast with the proceedings of the story. 

Altogether, The Bankster in a masterpiece and one would want to keep reading it until they finished the story. I had a much interrupted reading, with the festival season going on, and would simply rush back to the book, as soon as my chores were done.

If you love thrillers, I suggest you go pick The Bankster from the stands immediately!

My rating: ****/5

Book  Source : BlogAdda
Genre : Thriller
Title: The Bankster
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN: 978-81-291-2048-9
Number of Pages: 358
Price [INR] : 250

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Book Review: The Sins of the Mother by Danielle Steel

On the jacket:

Every woman makes choices. And no one has made more difficult choices than Olivia Grayson. The enormously successful businesswoman missed out on much of her children’s lives while she built her legendary home-furnishings empire. In Danielle Steel’s character-rich new novel, Olivia faces the past, tries to balance the present, and makes amends where due, while still running her vastly successful business.
As a way of making up to them for time lost, Olivia spends months every year planning a lavish holiday that everyone in her family will enjoy. This summer she has arranged a dream trip in the Mediterranean on a luxurious yacht, which she hopes will be the most memorable vacation of all. Her lavish gesture every year expresses her love for them, and regret at all the important times she missed during her children’s younger years. Her younger daughter, Cassie, a hip London music producer, refuses the invitation altogether, as she does every year. Her older daughter, Liz, lives in her mother’s shadow, with a terror of failure as she tries to recapture her dream of being a writer. And her sons, John and Phillip, work for Olivia, for better or worse, with wives who wish they didn’t. In the splendor of the Riviera, this should be a summer to remember, with Olivia’s children, grandchildren, and daughters-in-law on board. But as with any family gathering, there are always surprises, and no matter how glamorous the setting things don’t always turn out as ones hopes. 
Family dynamics are complicated, old disappointments die hard, and as forgiveness and surprising revelations enter into it, new bonds are formed, and the future takes on a brighter hue. And one by one, with life’s irony, Olivia’s children find themselves committing the same “sins” for which they blamed their mother for so many years. It is a summer of compassion, important lessons, and truth.
The Sins of the Mother captures the many sides of family love: complex, challenging, funny, passionate, and hopefully enduring. Along the way, we are enthralled by an unforgettable heroine, a mother strong enough to take more than her fair share of the blame, wise enough to respect her children for who they really are, and forgiving enough to love them unconditionally.


The Sins of the Mother is yet another classic Danielle Steel book, based on family drama. It allows the readers to take a journey across the world with the characters in the book, sitting in their cushy comforts of the house. The book speaks about a world of wealth, and the privileged people, who always act honourably and lead perfect lives. 

In The Sins of the Mother, Steel gives a glimpse of how the rich & the famous pay for the kind of lives they lead and in a way, does a small tug on the reader's heart strings. Most of us women can identify with it, as we do make so many sacrifices and balance decisions in every step of our lives. At some places, we can identify with Olivia, not literally, but in the junctions of life she is shown to be stuck in. 

This book is yet another book, for which Steel has been my favourite since long. An unputdownable, straight-read book, I personally enjoyed reading The Sins of the Mother.

My rating: ****/5

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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: Family Ties by Danielle Steel

On the jacket:

Annie Ferguson was a bright young Manhattan architect. Talented, beautiful, just starting out with her first job, new apartment and boyfriend, she had the world in the palm of her hand --- until a single phone call altered the course of her life forever. Overnight, she became the mother to her sister's three orphaned children, keeping a promise she never regretted making, even if it meant putting her own life indefinitely on hold.

Now, at forty-two, as independent as ever, with a satisfying career and a family that means everything to her, Annie is comfortable being single and staying that way. She appears to have no time for anything else. With her nephew and nieces now young adults and confronting major challenges of their own, Annie is navigating a parent's difficult passage between lending them a hand and letting go, and suddenly facing an empty nest. The eldest, twenty-eight-year-old Liz, an overworked, struggling editor in a high-powered job at Vogue, has never allowed any man to come close enough to hurt her. Ted, at twenty-four a serious and hard working law student, is captivated by a much older, much more experienced woman with children, who is leading him much further than he wants to go. And the youngest, twenty-one-year-old Katie --- impulsive, artistic, rebellious --- is an art student about to make a choice that will lead her to an entirely different world she is in no way prepared for but determined to embrace.

Then, just when least expected, a chance encounter changes Annie's life yet again in the most unexpected direction of all.

From Manhattan to Paris and all the way to Tehran, Family Ties is a novel that reminds us how challenging and unpredictable life can be, and that the powerful bonds of family are the strongest of all.


Okay! Relieved! I found Steel's old charm back in this book! And it raining outside, reading this book, cuddled in my quilt, gave a double joy. And, who doesn't love a nice story about family bonding.

As the summary above suggests, Annie and her sister used to be very close and because of a mishap, she ends up having to take care of the sister's three children. In the story, the kids grow and we indulge in their adulthood as well as strains in relationship. The story smoothly transitions between New York to Iran and back again, though I must admit, the move to Iran was a bit scary. Yes, I got so involved in this story!

What I am the happiest about Family Ties, is that just when I was losing hope from Steel's books, she reinstated it. Like before, her books are still, like a box of chocolate, once started, they have to be finished!

Very light reading, a feel-good kind of book. Steel was repetitive as she usually is, but over all Family Ties was one entertaining read.

My review: ****/5

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

Book Review: The Music Room by Namita Devidayal

On the jacket:

When Namita is ten years old, her mother takes her to Kennedy Bridge, a seamy neighborhood in Bombay, home to hookers and dance girls. There, in a cramped one-room apartment lives Dhondutai, the last living disciple of two of the finest Indian classical singers of the twentieth century: the legendary Alladiya Khan and the great songbird Kesarbai Kerkar. Namita begins to learn singing from Dhondutai, at first reluctantly and then, as the years pass, with growing passion. Dhondutai sees in her a second Kesarbai, but does Namita have the dedication to give herself up completely to the discipline like her teacher? Or will there always be too many late nights and cigarettes? And where do love and marriage fit into all of this? 

A bestseller in India, where it was a literary sensation, The Music Room is a deeply moving meditation on how traditions and life lessons are passed along generations, on the sacrifices made by women through the ages, and on a largely unknown, but vital aspect of Indian life and culture that will utterly fascinate American readers.


The Music Room is not just a story, it's a tribute. A brilliant tribute from a student to a teacher. In fact, not just to her teacher, but to the generations of musicians, their hard work and struggles. 

Personally, I am a dunce when it comes to the details of Indian classical music. Like all Bengali mothers, mine sent me for music classes. Neither was I interested in learning, neither did I have the voice. I've always been vary of performing arts, I am more comfortable with my pen and brushes.

So, when I picked up The Music Room, I was cautious. Yes, cautious. What if the book spoke of things which made no sense to me. That would mean I can't do justice to it as a reader, as well as reviewer. Initially I had hoped the book is Devidayal's story of her journey as a musician, but the book has more. Interesting anecdotes throughout, make it very interesting. Everyday conversations between Devidayal and her teacher, Dhondutai let the reader into the world of music.

I really don't want to act spoiler here, but this book has been so informative. Not just informative, it's a good story - touches ones heart. You love music, or/and, you love to read - read this.

My rating : ****/5

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

#BookReview : The Shrine of Death by Divya Kumar

On the jacket:  Prabha Sinha, an IT professional in Chennai, is plunged into a murky world of idol theft, murder, and betrayal aft...