Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review: How I Got Lucky by Farhad J Dadyburjor

On the jacket:

A satire on the entertainment world set against the frenzied buzz of Mumbai city

I was with Lucky... Lucky Star. He showed me what he was wearing to the Cannes Film Festival. He's given me an Exclusive.

Raman Malhotra is thirty five, uninitiated in the matters of love, and endlessly confused about his sexuality. A journalist with The Weekly, his search for front page scoops come to a screeching halt when hes assigned the Bollywood beat. Throw into the mix the shenanigans of an overpowering lesbian photographer, a dirt-swapping PR queen, a webcam model doling out sexual favours, and a rising Bollywood star. 

Raman's blah existence is dramatically thrown off-kilter when he finds himself being pursued and courted by the bisexual king of Bollywood, Lucky Star. Puckered into a world of celebrity, malicious gossip, and meaningless shags Raman wrestles with his sense of self, ideas of love, and the monstrous caricatures of entertainment. 

Review:

A debutant author who is witty. Not a surprise after having read the huge writing experience he has already had! In How I Got Lucky, Dadyburjor has implemented a witty take on the entertainment industry. The plot, at the sound of it, is not very novel, it has been done before. But the treatment given to it is interesting and makes the book a joyful read.

The characters are similar to ones we have read about, or even some we know  of, if we are industry insiders. A sattirical novel peppered with abundant amounts of hilarious anecdotes, this book will keep you in the splits.

It speaks of the sexual underbelly, the dirty politics, the pathetic games and the ever so famous manipulations that the industry is so famous for; albeit with a good mix of dark humour.

Rating: ****/5

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: The Moment by Douglas Kennedy


On the jacket: 

Thomas Nesbitt is a divorced American writer in the midst of a rueful middle age. Living a very private life in Maine - in touch only with his daughter and still trying to reconcile himself to the end of a long marriage that he knew was flawed from the outset - he finds his solitude disrupted by the arrival, one wintry morning, of a box postmarked Berlin. The return address on the box - Dussmann - unsettles him completely. For it is the name of the woman with whom he had an intense love affair twenty-six years ago in Berlin - at a time when the city was cleaved in two, and personal and political allegiances were haunted by the deep shadows of the Cold War.

Refusing initially to confront what he might find in that box, Thomas nevertheless finds himself forced to grapple with a past he has never discussed with any living person - and in the process relive those months in Berlin, when he discovered, for the first and only time in his life, the full, extraordinary force of true love. But Petra Dussmann - the woman to whom he lost his heart - was not just a refugee from a police state, but also someone who lived with an ongoing sorrow beyond dreams... and one which gradually rewrote both their destinies.

In this, his tenth novel, Douglas Kennedy has written that rare thing: a love story as morally complex as it is tragic and deeply reflective. Brilliantly gripping, it is an atmospherically dense, ethically tangled tale of romantic certainty and conflicting loyalties, all set amidst a stunningly rendered portrait of Berlin in the final dark years before The Wall came down.

Like all of Kennedy's previous, critically acclaimed bestselling novels, The Moment is both unputdownable and profound. Posing so many searching questions about why and how we fall in love - and the tangled way we project on to others that which our hearts seek - it is a love story of great epic sweep and immense emotional power.

Review:

The book begins with a man, Thomas, about to get a divorce. Soon it jumps into a flashback, where Thomas was dating a German girl. This is where the thrill begins.

The blurb fascinated me and upon reading the entire book, I was not disappointed one bit! The story did go a bit too long, a few pages shorter wouldn't have affected the content. A tight plot, well woven to arouse and sustain curiosity till the very end. 

Very nice world, it takes the reader to Berlin, before the wall was brought down. An entire story has been woven around a moment. We all have these moments, but putting across a tale around it is not simple. 

This book has made me love every moment, yet cry and become emotionally involved with the narrative. This was a plot, I will never forget.

Rating: ****/5 

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

Book Review: Let's Talk Money by Akhil Khanna

On the jacket:


Warren Buffett has two rules. Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget Rule No. 1. Let me add a Rule No. 3: Know how to apply Rule No. 1. For, neither our upbringing nor our education gives money any significant place. Money is the least discussed topic within a family. Formal education about it is absent.

The aim of this book is to help people from non-financial background to become aware of the world of money. In a simple, jargon-free language, it tries to acquaint us with this world ??? the various options one has of investing and the things one should bear in mind while choosing an option. We come to know of the complexities of the global investment climate we live in today and the dangers to our investments.

Remember: It is not important what one earns; true wealth is what one manages to keep.

Review:

This was a surprise read. If you are from a non-finance background and even do not have the knack for it, what do you do when  you simply have to understand some terms, but nothing gets through to your brain? It's quite fair, we are not supposed to understand everything, but when something is put across to us simply, and in the form of examples, it makes life so so simple.

We deal with money all the time, more for our future than for our today. We hate inflation. But what do we understand about it, except that we need to pay more for everything? Why does it happen? Khanna has explained all monetary terms in a simple manner with examples from our daily life. Money concepts can now be at the tip of the tongue of a novice too.

Let's Talk Money is extensive. In the book, you will find topics like money with it's supply changes as well as inflationary/deflationary environments, property, business & commodities, fixed income, debt, global environment, risk to investments, insurance, invest in happiness as well as the world financial crisis 2008. My favourite of all these chapters were the ones talking about insurance and risk to investments.

Let's Talk Money is the kind of book I would have loved to have had as a part of curriculum during my university days. You can be a medical professional, a housewife or a journalist, money will make more sense to you now.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: Two Brothers by Ben Elton

On the jacket:


Two babies are born.

Two brothers. United and indivisible, sharing everything. Twins in all but blood.

As Germany marches into its Nazi Armageddon, the ties of family, friendship and love are tested to the very limits of endurance. And the brothers are faced with an unimaginable choice....Which one of them will survive?

Ben Elton's most personal novel to date,Two Brothers transports the reader to the time of history's darkest hour.

Review:

The first thought that came into my mind when I saw the title. was - such an old plot. Books like Danielle Steel's Kaliedoscope and Jeffery Archer's Kane and Abel. Sibling Rivalry. *yawn* Not again. But I was surprised. Like how! I've read a considerable amount of good books this year, so far - this could be one of my best reads! 

I haven't read Elton before, so I cannot compare this book to his other works. It's a first read for me. A very humane tale of lives of normal people. Lives which are changed suddenly by the onset of evil. No emotion is overplayed, you are bound to identify with them all. 

The tale is about two Jewish brothers and we don;t need to be rocket scientists to get a gyst of how their lives change at the advent of the world war - how their satisfied and happy lives take a stumble and are faced with despair and tragedies. 

Absolute must read, I am glad I have been reading some awesome books lately and Two Brothers took the standard up by one notch!

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson


On the jacket:

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.” 
 
Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has 
happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has fig­ured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

Review:

What do I say about this book? It was a one of a kind read. 

A book where every section of a house, we live in without thinking of it's past, is spoken about and analysed. Bryson has gone into the history of each section of the house he lived in. One can see a whole lot of curiosity in the authors mind and how much extensive research he has undergone to sum up this book.

Primarily about the domestic lives in Britain and in America, there is a lot of history in here. It's full of numerous trivia. In the research, Bryson has brought up some questions like - Why do forks have four tines and not five? Why do humans eat pigs and keep dogs as pets .. why not the other way round?

Logical? Yes. Yet, we never pondered over them. Bryson has. Bryson has gone into the depth and got answers to why and how have things come into being as they are now, in an average home.

This book is like nothing I have read before; and am glad I did. Reading it was an experience.

Rating: ****/5

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: Wool (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey

On the jacket: 

This Omnibus Edition collects the five Wool books into a single volume. It is for those who arrived late to the party and who wish to save a dollar or two while picking up the same stories in a single package.

The first Wool story was released as a standalone short in July of 2011. Due to reviewer demand, the rest of the story was released over the next six months. My thanks go out to those reviewers who clamored for more. Without you, none of this would exist. Your demand created this as much as I did.

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

Review:


I am not a dystopian fan, to begin with and this was my first read of this kind! The first part of the book was a self-publication (through Amazon) which gained so much success that Howey signed distribution rights for the next four books. Wool is known to be a phenomenon amongst dystopian fiction, now.

Wool is about a settlement deep inside the earth. This came into existence because the air in the outer world, the air that we breathe had become poisonous. It's called a Silo and it is an entore world down there; with people doing different jobs just as we are here. We follow their lives as we read, specially Juliet's. They can see the outside world through video screens. The political scenario inside the Silo is poisonous.

I have never read this genre, but with Wool I am a fan. The title of the book still doesn't make any sense to me, maybe I am missing something. But the author's craft is commendable. The books, all 5 of them are highly interesting and outstanding reads. This book is capable of wow-ing you from page 1.

Rating: *****/5 


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

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Review: The Homing Pigeons by Sid Bahri

On the jacket:

In the middle of the catastrophic 2008 recession, Aditya, a jobless, penniless man meets an attractive stranger in a bar, little does he know that his life will change forever…..
When Radhika, a young, rich widow, marries off her stepdaughter, little does she know that the freedom that she has yearned for is not exactly how she had envisioned it…..
They say Homing Pigeons always come back to their mate, no matter where you leave them on the face of this earth. Homing Pigeons is the story of love between these two unsuspecting characters as it is of lust, greed, separations, prejudices and crumbling spines.

Review:

The Homing Pigeons was a surprise read. It was a surprisingly good read. I had expected a regular love story as is in abundance these days, but was in for a treat! Debut authors have been a sort of a disappointment of late. However, Sid Bahri seems to know very well what he is in for and has surely delivered a good read.

The plot, is different. While the author is said to deny it being a love story, it is one, though mildly. Human emotions, behaviours, wants, needs and reactions - Bahri has explore these in his debut novel. The plot does drag a wee bit, and you might want to run through and turn a few pages in between, but that would partly be because you want to know how the story ends. 

The end, the absolute end could have been different but even this works well. Editing could have been a little tighter. Characters were built very well and the plot which went from past to the present and sometimes, the in-between, was spun very well. 

A quick read, but an interesting story nevertheless. A thumbs up to the author.

Rating: ****/5

[This review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: Boats on Land by Janice Pariat

On the jacket:


Boats on Land (Random House, India) is a collection of short stories that offer a new way of looking at the world, and, in particular, India’s little-known northeast. Set in and around Shillong, Cherrapunjee and pockets of Assam, these tales are shaped against a larger historical canvas of the early days of the British Raj, the World Wars, conversions to Christianity, and the missionaries.

Spanning a sweep of centuries, from the mid-1800s to the present day, the stories work as a historical, sociological documentation of a place and its people, interweaving the quotidien and the mythic, the mundane and the extraordinary.

This is a world in which the everyday is infused with folklore and a deep belief in the supernatural. Here, a girl dreams of being a firebird. An artist watches souls turn into trees. A man shape-shifts into a tiger. Another is bewitched by water fairies. Political struggles and social unrest interweave with fireside tales and age-old superstitions.

Review:

I won this book as the January '13 winner of the Indian Quills Challenge 2013 and finally got to read this. Of entire India, the north east states fascinate me the most and with my family tree having faint traces of existence in Tripura, it just feeds to my fantasies of life on the hills.

Boats on Land is a book of short stories, let mainly around Shillong and Assam.  The author has a strong writing style, which is abundantly peppered with tranquil notes. Set during the British Raj, all the stories are vivid and while reading you will easily visualize the scenes.

A smooth read, a set of feel good stories. 

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: Lean In - Women, Work and The Will To Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

On the jacket:


Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, common sense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential. 

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.”  She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfilment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home. 

Written with both humour and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

Review:

It's always a pleasure to read what successful women have to say. It's never easy reaching where they have, yet they have! And how!

Lean In  is no doubt inspirational. A lot of the stuff have been said before but they are some things which cannot be said enough. No body has it easy, specially not a woman. Putting aside shrewd office politics, we have our lives, other people's lives as well as our ever changing bodies & moods to handle along with our careers. While some sit home, others like me take another easier and less ambitious option of working from home, very few actually take on the world head first. And these people always succeed.

The book speaks about mistakes women do, to make sure the readers don't repeat them. Sheryl does emphasize on the point that every woman can have different aspirations and it IS okay to want to sit at home and take care of your childre - as long as it fulfils you. 

The book is not a guidebook for any woman to star in her career. It is for any of us women who want to push ourselves into being an achiever in whatever we do. Men should read it too; your support means a world to us! 

Sandberg has nicely crafted the book with examples and excerpts from her own experiences as well as of her support team, where a lot of other women have chipped in and so have their partners. I would urge women to read this book, but I would urge their men to read it more.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid


On the jacket:

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting . . . 

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite "valuation" firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore. 

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

Review:

“It seems an obvious thing to say, but you should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists, just as we should not imagine that you Americans are all undercover assassins.” 

The above is an excerpt from the book The Reluctant Fundamentalist. This was my second read of a Pakistani author writing in English and I can say by now I am hooked. In fact, I am looking forward to read more English authors from across the border; their style is refreshing and different from what we get to read hear. 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist as the gyst above says, is about a Pakistani boy Changez who studied in the US, bagged his dream job and was more or less leading a content life there until 9/11. The book is an open letter to America to not assume that every Muslim is a terrorist just because there were a few followers of Islam behind the attacks.

Written in a very interesting style, a style I read for the first time - a monologue. Changez is having a conversation with an American gentleman, sitting at a cafe in Lahore. The conversation is one-sided, with Changez doing most of the talking and also depicting the other person's reactions to what he is saying, in the for of dialogues. In this conversation, Changez tells his companion about his stay in the US. It was very easy to describe Changez sitting at the cafe with his companion, having this conversation - I almost painted a picture of it in my mind. 

Personally, I loved this book. The ending wasn't a smasher but don't let that stop you from reading a powerful story. 

Rating: ****/5

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Book Review: The Test of My Life by Yuvraj Singh

On the jacket:

A personal account of Yuvraj Singh’s journey through cancer with the 2011 World Cup victory in the background‘

That day I cried like a baby not because I feared what cancer would do but because I didn’t want the disease. I wanted my life to be normal, which it could not be.’

For the first time Yuvraj Singh tells the real story behind the 2011 World Cup when on-the-field triumph hid his increasingly puzzling health problems and worrying illnesses. In his debut book The test of my life, he reveals how—plagued with insomnia, coughing fits that left him vomiting blood, and an inability to eat—he made a deal with God. On the night before the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup final, Yuvraj prayed for the World Cup in return for anything God wanted. In this book, he lays bare his fears, doubts, and the lows he experienced during chemotherapy— when he lost his energy, his appetite, and his hair—and his battle to find the will to survive. Poignant, personal, and moving—The test of my life—is about cancer and cricket; but more importantly, it is about the human will to fight adversity and triumph despite all odds.

Review:

This was one book I really wanted to read. Why, you ask? Other survivors have written books before, then why this? Probably because I had been tested (just tested) for lung cancer in my mid-20s Yuvi was, when he was tested. And probably because the tumour that was finally diagnosed, was similar to what my father had succumbed too, even it's position was the same. Probably, because waiting for the test results I too had thought, "These things happen to old people, I am young." Probably because all said and done, I am hoping to hold on to whatever positive energies I can get from the book.

So when the book arrived for review, I was elated. Now keeping all my emotions aside, let me tell you about the book.

Not a very high standard of editing, but that is what made the read so good. Yuvraj reached out to the reader through the simple language used in the book, it was all very conversational. The 3-4 hours that I took to read the book, I felt I was sitting in front of him and he was talking to me. 

The book is a mix of a memoir of his fight with cancer and an autobiography. It talks about his childhood, how he started playing, his routines, his father being a tyrant in his life - pushing him to better his performance on the cricket ground, the relationship between his parents and his childhood in general. There are strong traces of anger towards his father, for the times when he was forced to practice cricket against his will.

What came across strongly is how Yuvraj has mentioned only his father during his growing up days, i.e. during his cricket practice days and later when he was  fighting cancer, only his mother was by his side. His friends and team mates were his strength apart from his mother; but the book has no mention of his father or brother offering their support. 

The book has a detailed mention of his chemotherapy and treatment in general. Those who have never witnessed the procedures might find these bits boring, but if you or your loved ones have lived through this trauma ... you will relive it all.

Rating: ****/5

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

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Book Review: Tantra by Adi

On the jacket:



Anu is a leather wearing, no-nonsense professional guardian with a reputation for killing the most dangerous vampires in New York City. But when her enemies murder the one person she truly cared about, all she wants is vengeance. The only clue points to New Delhi, so Anu puts in for a job transfer.

In India, she finds more than she expected. For one thing, her fellow operatives have made a truce with the vampires. For another, it’s way too hot to wear leather.

At first, it seems Anu’s biggest challenge will be evading the nice boys her aunt wants her to marry. But when children start disappearing, she discovers forces older and darker than anything she’s faced before. All of Delhi is in danger, especially the sexy stranger who sets Anu’s pulse racing.

To prepare for the coming battle, Anu must overcome her personal demons and put aside years of training. This time, her most powerful weapon will come from her mind, not her weapons belt.

Review:

I will be very upfront about this book. The cover reminded me of the film Ra.One and an interesting synopsis, I let the book sit on my night stand for two days. If at all, I picked up the book to read only because I had a review to right. 

Wait? Read more! Don't judge a book by three lines a reviewer writes!

Ok so pretty grudgingly, I picked up the book and I had no clue what I was reading. Agreed, the genre is not something I actually read all the time, but I have adapted to newer genres pretty easily in the past. Nevertheless, about Tantra

The first quarter of 2013 was spent in reading a lot of first time Indian authors and frankly, most have been disappointing. Tantra, I am afraid, was a damp squib. 

The protagonist of the book is Anu Aggarwal, a vampire hunter from New York. The love of her life was killed and she has come to Delhi to seek revenge. She stays with her aunt who wants to get her married, as, at 27, she was not getting younger. To explain her situation, she had lied to her mother stating that she is gay and in turn her mother wanted her to play along with her aunt's marriage proposals as it would be difficult for her to come out of the closet in India. Why she had to make up tales about her sexuality, beats me.

So with the protagonist's name that reminded me of films like Khalnaayika and her personal life a mess, the first few pages were not very interesting. At this point, I must mention something about the overall feel of the book - the reading experience. Adi writes well. This being his first attempt, I would want to read more from him. When I say he writes well, I am talking about his language, grammar and the way he plays with words. 

The plot picks up after a few pages. Children from various slums across the city are found missing and who is the culprit? Some dangerous vampires. Anu, with years of experience in what she is doing, finds herself stuck in the middle a dangerous game. This is where the plot becomes interesting.
The book is a tad lengthy. There are sections with too much of narratives and the plot stretches. However, what could have been better was a little bit more about Anu. Why and how did she become a vampire hunter?

The action sequences described where smooth and while reading I could actually envision the same. Also, it would be unfair to not point out that there are parts which are really, really engrossing. However, only in parts.

Tantra was not very impressive for the simple reason that unless the genre really, really interests you, you won’t enjoy it. So yes, pick it up if you are into reading about vampires.

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





#BookReview: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

On the jacket: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness  takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent, from t...