Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review: Bombay Rains, Bombay Girls by Anirban Bose

On the jacket:


On learning that I was going to study medicine in Bombay, someone had said to me, ' You've got to see two things in Bombay: the Bombay rains and the Bombay girls.' 

When Adi - a small town eighteen year old with a gaint inferiority complex lands a chance to study medicine in big, bad Bombay, he is overjoyed. Although plagued by the thought that his success is a fluke and hence ill gotten, he plunges headlong into the sights and sound of this dazzling city.

Adi's initiation into college life isn't the most promising...... A night of ragging by a bunch of sniggering seniors brings him and his equally vulnerable batch mates close to tears..... But gradually, he finds his feet in the world and makes friends with a motley crew. He also has his heart broken and falls in love ..... In that order.

Review:


The plot is yet, another run-of-the-mill story of a small town boy coming to Bombay to study and his life thereafter. The author being a doctor, it was not a surprise that the protagonist was a medical student. With strong reminders of 3 Idiots, Bombay Rains, Bombay Girls has anecdotes which any guy who has spent a few years in boys' hostel would be able to relate with.

The book begins in first person and from the second chapter, it abruptly moves to third person. Back in the last chapter, the plot is back to being told in the first person. This was confusing and a sure shot bad influence on the reading experience.

Love, heartbreaks, fun, a bit of studying, and finally getting serious about the career sprinkled with a lot of my favourite city Bombay. Rains are the best in Bombay, however inconvenient life gets during those months. Not a literary masterpiece, but a good read specially during travel.

Rating: ***/5

[This was a personal read.]

Book Review: D: Ten Years. Two Lives. One Cafe. by Aniruddha Mahale

On the jacket:


This is not a story. It might be long, and have chapters. It might even appear like one—with a beginning, and an end, and also a middle, but it still isn't one. It is a journey.

It begins in early 2003, where fate throws destiny D—a spunky and spontaneous teenage girl, and the author A—a mumbling socially awkward prepubescent young boy, involuntarily together over a chance meeting at a café. But as all non-stories go, what begins as one impulsive-yet-hurried meal expands into more than a decade’s worth of meetings, musings and repartees. Rest as they say, is history.

It’s a thrilling adventure of two people and the challenging travails of growing up, following heart-to-heart conversations between D and A, as they talk about the past, the present and the future over cups of coffee and accompanying croissants, exploring everything that floats around in this universe, allowing us to tag along with them in their journey and slowly diffuse in their lives.

Review:

This is not a regular work of fiction. It's definitely not one of our random love stories. How you interpret it, is up to you - different readers can take it in different perspectives. It's a  story about D and A, who meet by chance and end up spending a whole lot of time and memories, over the years at a cafe.

I began reading this book without reading the blurb. Because. The cover enthralled me.  After a long time, I have picked a book and gazed at the cover for the longest time, imagining the many plots that can be spun in the cafe depicted there. And I was not disappointed. Very good, smooth flowing language, spun in a conversational manner; the conversations smoothly transition from one to another. 

Characters were well-formed, the plot well-spun, D is a book I would want to read again, maybe when I am travelling. A good read from a debut author, D thankfully doesn't show traces of stereotype patterns which most books these days have. Another thing working for the book, is that most of us can identify with it in some way of the other.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Review: Polka Dots, Pony Tails and Purple Pouts by Amrita Anand Nayak

On the jacket:


Leena, Tia and Jasmine, each have a past that has made them what they are and which still continues to cast a shadow on their lives as far as love and relationships are concerned.

Leena almost always falls for older men. Is there a painful story behind her aversion to younger men or is it just a coincidence? Leena, the girl who loves sporting a pony tail and casual looks, has been through tough times which have made her mature but at heart she is still Daddy's little angel and dotes on her recuperating, erstwhile-alcoholic father. She falls in and out of failed relationships, braves heartbreak, fights her inner demons and finds her true love in the end with somebody no one would have ever imagined, given her taste and inclinations.

Tia, the goody-goody, super-talented introvert beauty is the proverbial jack of all trades. She just loves writing or blogging and her other major love in life is predicting fashion trends, following all the happenings in the fashion world and be a step ahead in the whats-in-vogue-and-whats-out world. She loves dressing up as much as she loves her polka dotted dress because it is her lucky dress that gets her the attention of Sam. But life can never be so simple, can it? The shy and meek Tia struggles and rises above all her fears, faces the dramatic family ire, works for her passion and ambitions supported all the way by her gem of a boyfriend and two loving roomies.

Jasmine is the most colourful character of the three and lives her life like a free bird. She has no time for love, but plenty of time for flirting, short-term affairs and even one-night stands are not a taboo for her. However, she has faced a disturbing past that even her parents don't know about, but God and her godmother help her live through this phase. The Jasmine of today dresses seductively, purrs and pouts with her plum lips, parties hard and is simply determined to make her life as much fun as possible, but has Jasmine really got over Jerry Matthews, her first love? Has Jerry got over her? Will Jasmine's wild ways have no ramifications? She will get all these answers and more unexpected twists and turns to face.

Life is good when you have a loving life-partner, but it's even better when you have dear and dependable friends. For Leena, Tia and Jasmine, life has plenty of struggles in store but also plenty of cheers and smiles along the way as they journey together.

Review:

After Anuja Chauhan and Judy Balan, here is another new age woman author whom I thoroughly enjoyed reading. These are a few handful authors who are slowly yet steadily taking Indian writing into a good, read-worthy level, again. Amrita Anand Nayak, I would say, has successfully joined this gang. 

So many films are made, books are written on bonds between guys or bromance as the term is loosely used these days.But never one of bonds between girlfriends. The theme of this book attracted me to read the blurb and I knew I had to read the book. Being someone who has spent a few years away from home, with flatmates who accounted for every happy and sad, awake and sleeping moment of my life - Polka Dots, Pony Tails and Purple Pouts was a welcome change of a read.

Too much effort seemed to have been put in character building. The plot is interesting and the story has been well-written; but the book requires a bit of editing. Once you are into reading the book, you will see a bit of a havoc - too many characters, a lot happening. One 'can' get lost in the events of the lives of Jasmine, Leena, Tia, Jerry, Arnab, Chris, Sam, Ravi, Kathy and so many other characters; it does get confusing at some points. This is where a bit of good editing could have stepped in and smoothed the reading experience. Nayak has a good story-telling skill. With polish, I have a feeling, her next books will be even better.

Rating: 3.5/5

[The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Friday, May 24, 2013

Book Review: Arjuna by Anuja Chandramouli

On the jacket:


Arjuna is the immortal tale of one of India's greatest heroes. These pages retell in riveting detail the story of the Pandava Warrior-Prince who has captured the imagination of millions across centuries. This is the intense and human story of his loves, friendship, ambitions, weaknesses and follies, as well as his untimely death and revival, his stint as a eunuch, and the innermost reaches of his thoughts. Told in a refreshingly modern and humourous style and set against the staggering backdrop of the Mahabharata. Arjunas story appeals equally to the average, discerning reader and the scholar. It spans the epic journey from before his birth, when omens foretold his greatness, across the fabled, wondrous landscape that was his life.

Review:

I am not much of a history reader but Indian mythology does interest me. Probably the early childhood influences of Ramayan and Mahabharat first being read out to me from my first illustrated book and then watching both on the telly. I received Arjuna by Anuja Chandramouli yesterday afternoon. Sick and on bed rest with a running nose and mild temperature, I was not sure when I will begin reading the book. But I ended up doing almost an all-nighter with it; and by morning I had read it from cover to cover.

Arjuna is basically a retelling of the story. But frankly speaking, if this book ha d not landed on my bed side table, I wouldn't have re-read Ved Vyas's story. The book had so many revelations for me, bits that I never knew about and bit which I had forgotten. Also, Arjuna is seriously an underplayed character in the mythological tale. This book throws more light on who he really was.

Chandramouli kept the reader in me captivated. Yes, broadly the story was nothing new. But the presentation, language and the research which must have gone behind writing this book, made the book an engrossing read. 

An engrossing read, whether you remember Mahabharat, the tale or some of it is rusted in your memory, I have a feeling, you will enjoy this. Arjuna proved to be a better read than I had expected and after a long time, I finished a book in one read; and a serious read too! 

Rating: ****/5

[This review was requested by the author. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.

Book Review: The Hope Factory by Lavanya Sankaran

On the jacket:



With humor, intelligence, and masterly prose, Lavanya Sankaran’s debut novel brilliantly captures the vitality and danger of a newly industrialized city and how it shapes the dreams and aspirations of two very different families.
Anand is a Bangalore success story: successful, well married, rich. At least, that’s how he appears. But if his little factory is to grow, he needs land and money, and, in the New India, neither of these is easy to find.
Kamala, Anand’s family’s maid, lives perilously close to the edge of disaster. She and her clever teenage son have almost nothing, and their small hopes for self-betterment depend on the contentment of Anand’s wife: a woman to whom whims come easily.
But Kamala’s son keeps bad company, and Anand’s marriage is in trouble. The murky world where crime and land and politics meet is a dangerous place for a good man, particularly one on whom the well-being of so many depends.
Rich with irony and compassion, Lavanya Sankaran’s The Hope Factory affirms her gifts as a born storyteller with remarkable prowess, originality, and wisdom.

Review:

This is my first read by Sankaran and while I did have her first book in my t-read list, I got to read The Hope Factory first. The title as well as the book cover fascinated me. One look at the cover and one can think of various tales that can be spun off it.

The story revolves around Bangalore and two characters - Kamala and Anand. Anand is a businessman, a single father and Kamala, a poor widow, is a maid with Anand's family. Kamala lives with the sole aim of giving a proper, educated life to her son Narayan. A staunch reality of Anand's family which has everything money can buy in comparison to Kamala's family which is trying hard to make ends meet - makes The Hope Factory. What is common, is that they both want to be good parents. 

Beautifully crafted characters, a tight plot with two tales that have been intelligently inter-woven, life's complexities which we can all identify with, and human emotions are so real. The language is smooth and despite it being a thick book, it was a easy-flowing read. 

What I loved most about The Hope Factory was, that apart from being a very real tale, it was everything that we don't see in most of the recently published titles. 

Rating: ****/5

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Duaayein ...

Anyone who knows me, is aware we shifted back to base city less than a couple of months ago. Now, during the process of loading and unloading of our furniture etc, a lot of stuff had got damaged and we were looking for ways to dispose them. One such item was a desert cooler, which didn't have much utility in the current house anyway. So, it was just kept near the lawns for about a month when I started making noise about how ugly it's looking there and soon birds and strays will come make home inside it. I wanted it out, but it was kind of functional, so couldn't just throw it away. 

One afternoon, a young woman rings the bell. I open the door irritated because it was really hot and I wasn't happy to be pulled out of my air conditioned bedroom. (Hold that thought right there, don't call me a snob sitting in a cool room yourself!)

So well, she pointed at the cooler kept at the far end of the premises and asked if we want to sell it. I nodded, not sure if anyone would want to buy it. Before I could say more, she said, "We live in those temporary shanties behind this colony, where the new constructions are taking place. Our house has a tinned roof and it gets very hot. The fan doesn't help one bit and my little boy cries all afternoon, he sweats so much."

Ohh.

She looked at me pleadingly. I told her what all was wrong with it and that the fan and pump were in top condition, so if her man can do something with it, they can take it. Her man came and said, he can work around the damages. I asked them to come next morning and speak to S. At night, I told him the entire story and he said, "You should've let them take it then itself, would've saved them one hot afternoon." 

So the next day they came and took it, she kept thanking us profusely. 
The area next to the lawn was clean now, and I was hoping some baby is happy nearby. I soon forgot this episode.

Last evening, I was walking down from a neighbourhood shop, back home. Someone called from behind and it was the same woman with her baby. She'd seen me and come running. She thanked me and said, "...because of you, my baby can sleep peacefully. You are very kind, my home stays so cool now. Do visit us someday," she pointed at her shanty. The honesty and thankfulness in her voice made me feel so small. So freakin' small. Something I wanted to be thrown away asap, because it was looking bad sitting there, is currently the reason of so much comfort for a little 3 months old baby and happiness for his mother.

Yesterday I got buckets full of good wishes from a mother. Wishes for something I didn't even do. But it felt SO good. It came to me by fluke, but considering how many blessings I need right now ... maybe she was godsend. Just like she said I was godsend for her baby.

I don't know who helped whom, but as of today, the only reason I have smiled since morning, is thinking of the little baby, sleeping peacefully in a cool room.

Also, parents. Parents must be the only people who can run around frantic, to get the smallest and biggest comforts for us, right? Would it matter to this child, how his mother had managed to give him cool afternoons when he was only three months old? I hope it does, we do tend to forget growing up.

Swimsuit by James Patterson

On the jacket:


A breathtakingly beautiful supermodel disappears from a swimsuit photo shoot at the most glamorous hotel in Hawaii. Only hours after she goes missing, Kim McDaniels' parents receive a terrifying phone call. Fearing the worst, they board the first flight to Maui and begin the hunt for their daughter.

Ex-cop Ben Hawkins, now a reporter for the LA Times, gets the McDaniels assignment. The ineptitude of the local police force defies belief - Ben has to start his own investigation for Kim McDaniels to have a prayer ... and for Ben to have the story of his life.

All the while, the killer sets the stage for his next production. His audience expects the best - and they won't be disappointed. Swimsuit is a heart-pounding story of fear and desire, transporting you to a place where beauty and murder collide and unspeakable horrors are hidden within paradise.

Review:

I was a bit sceptical about a co-authored book but boy, was I blown away. Swimsuit is shocking and spine-chilling, more than what the blurb suggests. It picks up pace from page 1 and believe me you, it was so difficult for me to let got of reading it, even to go brush my teeth, last night. Yes, I was turning the pages, while I was chewing on my toothbrush.

Swimsuit, as the blurb says, is about a swim-suit model being abducted. It's not as simple as it sounds, it's actually much more gory than a lot of our imaginations. Personally, I love crime fiction yet I'd not been reading them for a while for no particular reason. Now, I am soo back to them, and for good!

Intense and skilfully spun, the plot will keep you hooked. If you are a sucker for crime fiction, don't even think twice. Pick this one up!

Rating: ****/5

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Review: Arty Facts by Ankita Kapoor (e.book)

On the jacket: 


Arty Facts is the amusing story of a small town girl who lands up in Delhi and the dubious and ludicrous people she encounters, no matter where she goes or how hard she tries to stay away from them. This book is dedicated to everyone who has been harassed by their horrible bosses, loves bitching and enjoys taking this flight from reality with their bitching buddies- a god-send I'd say in this wild, wild world! So while you hop skip and jump through the jungle called life, don't forget to bitch a little!

Review:

Arty Facts is straight out of the diary of a 20 something who has recently finished college. A cribster, she has an opinion about everything and makes it a point to bitch about it all - even when her mother calls up concerned about her career which she herself had no intent on being serious about. Unexpectedly she lands herself a job and this is where a new chapter in her life begins. 

Scroll through the book and you will be reminded of your own younger days when everything bothered you and every action extracted a reaction. Very typical of the age, the way the author has written some incidents, its quite funny. The emotions are realistic. The amount the protagonist bitches about her boss, if not very common, is absolutely real and believable. 

The language however, needed editing. Us of phrases like cousin brother/real brother, dressing sense were a major let down along with vernacular sentence formations like "the plan was to save my one month's salary". There is usage of a lot of flowery language with big words but all that seem put on when one notices that the copy needs editing.

Kapoor is a good story-teller, the book did keep me in splits throughout. The anecdotes and incidents, the typical characters and the protagonists bitching about them all the time makes Arty Facts a light read. 

Rating: ***/5

[The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Book Review: Foreign by Sonora Jha

On the jacket:


The book is a fictionalized account of the farmers suicides in contemporary India. It is set in Seattle and in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, with the two worlds tumbling together in a web of suicide, politics and betrayal. 

In a village in India, a forsaken man is about to kill himself in quiet despair. A million miles away, Katya Misra is celebrating a perfect evening in her fine, academic life in Seattle . . . until she is informed that her teenage son Kabir has run away to India in search of a father he has never met. Contemptuous of her homeland and determined to bring Kabir back where he belongs, Katya must follow her son into the home of a suicidal farmer, in a village where, every eight hours, a man kills himself. Here, as Kabirs father inspires his son with his selfless social work, Katya finds an ally in the farmers wife Gayatribai, who saves Kabirs life by damaging her own, and in return asks for Katyas help in keeping her husband alive in the suicide epidemic that has gripped this treacherously changing nation. 

Whipped up in a world of violent protest rallies, mass weddings, inglorious suicides, and a love that demands to be rekindled, Katya must learn whose life can be saved and whose she should just let go. 

Review:

This book is special to me. I am a Nagpur girl. Being in the city doesn't affect a life of a Vidharbhaiite technically, but if anyone other than the farmers of the drought hit areas, we are the ones who are majorly affected. The fight for separate statehood is mainly so that we can use our own resources, for our own people instead of giving a cushy life to rest of Maharashtra.

Ok, emotions aside, Foreign was a touching read. A book that started with an elite social gathering in Seattle is soon transitioned to India and then to the heart of Vidarbha, a region famous of farmer suicides. In her quest to find her runaway son Kabir, Katya Misra finds herself in the midst of suicides, rallies and face to face with Kabir's father, whom he had run away from home to find. 

A gripping story, not only about human relations, but also a fair mirror to what is actually happening and why, how can these suicides be prevented and how. How much have these suicides affected out society, how deep does the desperation which makes men kill themselves go and how helpless the rest of us are. Reading Foreign will not only give you a good read, it will change your perspective about quite a few facts around us.

Rating: ****/5

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

Book Reading: Exposure by Sayed Kashua

On the jacket:

In Jerusalem, two Arabs are on the hunt for the same identity. The first is a wealthy lawyer with a thriving practice, a large house, a Mercedes and a beautiful family. With a sophisticated image to uphold, he decides one evening to buy a second-hand Tolstoy novel recommended by his wife - but inside it he finds a love letter, in Arabic, undeniably in her handwriting. Consumed with jealous rage, the lawyer vows to take his revenge on the book's previous owner.
Elsewhere in the city, a young social worker is struggling to make ends meet. In desperation he takes an unenviable job as the night-time carer of a comatose young Jew. Over the long, dark nights that follow, he pieces together the story of his enigmatic patient, and finds that the barriers that ought to separate their lives are more permeable than he could ever have imagined.
As they venture further into deception, dredging up secrets and ghosts both real and imagined, the lawyer and the carer uncover the dangerous complexities of identity - as their lies bring them ever closer together.

Review:

Exposure is one of the finest books I have read. The blurb had me curious about the story and once I began reading the book, I was hooked. Moving from a page to another was quick, because I couldn't wait to know what happens next.

A story dealing with parallel lives, not one minute was when I felt the story was stagnant. Kashua is a brilliant story teller and human mind, behaviour and reactions have been very articulately spun in this story.

Palestinian Israeli novelist Kashua had written Exposed in Hebrew, which was later translated to English. A plot about two individuals, with two individual stories, which in the end, cross path and become one story. It's difficult to talk about the plot as such, because, it cannot be summarized in one or two lines. The experience of reading this book, was thrilling. Though the climax isn't very strong, it does hold the plot together.

Rating: ****/5

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: MBA Is Not About Money, Blazer, Arrogance by Krishna Kranthi

On the jacket:


Like many, Revant has dreamt of getting that fancy and highly regarded MBA degree. After working hard, finally he gets an admission to one of the top Indian B-schools. His excitement is short lived as the overwhelming pressure and the vague defin­itions of management boggle him down. He gets frustrated with the people around him who see MBA as a purpose of earning higher salary and getting superior designations and indulging in unneeded arrogance. He thinks this is not what he wanted to learn out of his MBA. 

But then, something changes and Revant experiences the true purpose of pursuing an MBA. 

An inside story of MBA graduates, the book helps one realize that real purpose of a MBA degree is not confined to money, blazer, arrogance but it is more than that.

Review:

A well-written book, though the language needs some polishing, MBA Is Not About Money, Blazer, Arrogance is exactly what the title suggests. What seems like the authors own memoir from his own days of doing MBA at an institute in Pune, or inspired from it - the book is what we can refer to as a handbook for MBA aspirants to prepare them for the life ahead. The fun, the hard work, the changes in life and attitude and finally grabbing the jobs of their choices - this book takes the reader through all the stages. 

Often we wonder what is it so important to have an MBA? Also, does one really need it? Though who are doing well in their careers without an MBA will obviously scout for the latter, but we cannot deny that having one (degree) does give a huge lift to the career graph at the very beginning. 

The story also deals with the protagonists (and his friends') ordeals and successes in personal lives. All in a ll a good read, though the language could have done with a bit of a polish.

Rating: ***/5

Book Review: Journey to Ithaca by Anita Desai

On the jacket:

Matteo and Sophie join the 1970s flight of young Europeans to India. Matteo - Italian, raised in the luscious countryside around Lake Como, restless since childhood - has been introduced by a tutor to Hermann Hesse's The Journey to the East, and it opens in him a desperate longing. Sophie - German, practical, worldly - is willing to follow him to the ends of the earth. In India, together they visit swamis, gurus, ashrams - always searching. Matteo is seeking spiritual enlightenment, but for Sophie fulfillment lies in earthly love. And when they meet a holy woman known as the Mother, the differences between them seem to explode. When we learn the Mother's story, we see it as an earlier version of their own - the story of a young girl growing up in Cairo and finding her way East by joining a troupe of Indian dancers she has met in Europe. Her journey, a young woman's daring progress through Paris and Venice and New York, until she finds her moment of transcendence in India, comments on, and gives added breadth to, the young couple's quest.

Review:


Anita Desai is a master story-teller. Journey to Ithaca is people's journey to attain contentment, written in a very detailed format. Three people are on the journey and the book is a description of their travels to different parts of the world. 

Emotions and people, their reactions to actions are beautifully depicted. Matteo comes to India to get away from everything. Sophie follows suit only because she loves Matteo. While Sophie and Matteo live in India, the conditions they live in deteriorates and Matteo keeps drifting apart from her and closer to 'mother'. Sophie is convinced 'mother is a fraud and to prove it she travels across the world from Europe to US, to finally return to India but instead of the truth, she is armed with more complexities. She keeps travelling. Her reasons have changed. The people in her life have changed, moved away or are no more. But she keeps travelling...

Rating: ***/5

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

Book Review: In the Body of the World: A Memoir by Eve Ensler

On the jacket: 

From the best-selling author of The Vagina Monologues and one of Newsweek’s 150 Women Who Changed the World, a visionary memoir of separation and connection—to the body, the self, and the world

Playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler has devoted her life to the female body—how to talk about it, how to protect and value it. Yet she spent much of her life disassociated from her own body—a disconnection brought on by her father’s sexual abuse and her mother’s remoteness. “Because I did not, could not inhabit my body or the Earth,” she writes, “I could not feel or know their pain.”

But Ensler is shocked out of her distance. While working in the Congo, she is shattered to encounter the horrific rape and violence inflicted on the women there. Soon after, she is diagnosed with uterine cancer, and through months of harrowing treatment, she is forced to become first and foremost a body—pricked, punctured, cut, scanned. It is then that all distance is erased. As she connects her own illness to the devastation of the earth, her life force to the resilience of humanity, she is finally, fully—and gratefully—joined to the body of the world.

Unflinching, generous, and inspiring, Ensler calls on us all to embody our connection to and responsibility for the world.

Review:

Reading this memoir was difficult. Emotionally and for the mind. But what comes throw the pages of this book, is Ensler, who is surely a warrior and a survivor. Abused by her father, Ensler grew up to spend years of her life as an activist for women who have undergone physical violence. On top of this, she get diagnosed of cancer. 

This book made me cry; there are descriptions which we, the little-more-fortunate can never even build up in our imaginations. In the book you see a woman, so broken, that even if she gave up, it would have been okay. But she didn't. Cancer is difficult to read about. Added to it, the abuses committed against women's bodies. Parts made my heart grieve. Ensler has a scary story to tell, but I say you read it. It's honest and in your face. It will make your heart cry, but the book doesn't present itself as anything less than strong. 

A must, must read.

Rating: ****/5

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

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Do brands own you?

Yes, we all like to dress well. While some of us lean towards what is smart and comfortable, some others are particular that these smart clothing need to be branded. Which one are you? And while we are at it, and you surely do love brands – so why not be a mystery shopper with RedQuanta!

Ever wondered what brand conscious is? Is it blindly following a brand because it is raved about all over the world or buying a brand because you understand what their products are about? A fresh example that comes to my mind is; how we buy phones. A lot of us buy phones based on fads. Apple is considered more hyped while android phones are cheaper. I know Apple fanboys of two types: one who buy it because they can and the other who buy it because they like the product, the after sales service and the comfort of using Apple products. Ironically, both kinds are brand conscious in their own worlds.

A friend buys Body Shop products because they are organic and that matters to her. A relative does the same because they make her dresser look posh, when her friends visit. Ever wondered why are we so greedy to own nothing but the best?
When our conversations are peppered with Gucci, LV, Hermes, Cavalli etc, it feels good. Why? Because these brands symbolise money. But do we need them? Do we appreciate them? Do we understand what they are all about? A Mango top can cost me 4K while the same design will cost half in one of the Bandra boutiques. But! It’s not the same thing!

So, am I really brand conscious? Do I own my brands or do the brands own me?

[This blogpost is in association with RedQuanta. You can also check their blog here.]

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ten things they don’t sell.

We work out asses off all our lives – to make money. And believe that this money will make our life better. No doubt it does, but does it make it perfect? Isn’t it true that the best things in life cannot be bought? You don’t believe? Let me point a few such things to you:

Peace of Mind: You have millions in the bank. Your company has branches worldwide. But it's likely you are always worried about the stock rates and the market value of these offices. Where is the peace of mind? Weren't you more at peace when poorer?

Confidence: You have a walk in closet with the world's best designer clothes and accessories. But you don't know how to pair them. And finally when you do learn to, you walk out with a stopped shoulder. Why? Because you lack confidence. You can learn to walk upright, but can you buy and make up for that lack of confidence?

Time: Remember the story where a little boy offers to pay his father the same amount of money that he earns in an hours, just so the man can spend it with his son? You have all the money you desire, but no time to spend it on yourself, no time to sit and talk to your nearest ones.

Health: Money can ensure good medical services and care. Money can ensure hugh insurance premium being payed for. But there is only so much that medical science can do to ensure your good health. What after that? How do you ensure good health when there is nothing left to buy, but pray?

Sound Sleep: You are up all night worrying about your work and your meetings. Will the same money help you sleep soundly, every night. More often than not, it doesn't.

Wisdom: We can buy all the books in the world and get educated at the best institutions, but widom comes from within. It graces the poor as much as the rich. You are either wise, or you are not...you cannot buy it.

Talent: Money can help us better and polish our talents, but it cannot be bought if it's not within us. You cannot create a talent with money. Again, it's either in you or it's not.

Immortality: Earn millions, build a cushy home and have the best facilities around you. But, you'l leave it all and die one day. Alone. The money left behind can never buy you immortality.

Family and friends: These are the relations we take very lightly and for granted. But can we buy them? No, a mother or a best friend who care for you as they would if they were own, can never be bought.

Home: We can invest in multiple real estates and feel good about our acquisitions. But those are houses. Not homes. We can build a home with people, emotions, feelings etc. With money, we can just acquire the structures and decorate them.

Don’t let me upset you with all this! Be a mystery shopper with RedQuanta, get paid to shop and review! How cool is that!

[This blogpost is in association with RedQuanta. You can also check their blog here.]

Book Review: When Strangers meet.. by K. Hari Kumar

On the jacket: 


What happens when an irritating but lovable wise-cracking 'Stranger' called Iyer meets a frustrated and arrogant teenager, Jai, on a fateful day in a congested room at the metro station? Catastrophe!!!
Meanwhile, Pathan never had the pleasure of happiness in his life yet he thanked Allah for every second of it... 
Abandoned by fate and friends, surrounded by responsibilities and poverty... This hard-coated man from the city of Delhi knew only thing and that was to keep faith in Allah... Now he is set on a journey to turn around his fate...

The tale from the Iyer's past will change Pathan's present and Jai's future... And trust me... 
Sometimes all it takes is a stranger's tale to change the track of your life...

Three Men... One fateful day... and a Story of a Lifetime...

The Stranger is coming this May... are you ready to receive him? ;)

Review:

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was intrigued. Three lives crossing path, obviously something intriguing will come out of it. So I began reading the book as soon as it arrived. Here, I must point, I was met with a few surprises - both good and bad. Good being that Hari Kumar is a good story teller and the bad being that the book seemed like it was in it's first draft format, with no edits whatsoever. The latter hampered the reading experience to a large extent.

Coming back to the story, it's about three characters - Jai, Hussain and Iyer, all of different age groups, backgrounds and ethnicities. They meet and life changes for all of them. Despite the fact that I was a bit miffed at a book with so many editorial errors, I didn't want to stop turning the pages. Characters were not built very strongly, but the events were. For instance, I am still wondering if Hussain's character was at all necessary? He plays an important role in the last bit of the book, but his life was not as affected as Jai's or Iyer's were, owing to this meeting. Jai's relationship with his father, as shown in the story is atrocious  A professor's son saying 'shut up' and the father calling his son a bastard to which the son retorts saying I am your son - is a bit too stretched, accepting the fact that Jai was shown to be a misbehaved teenager. 

Iyer's story was very well told and personally I found that part of the book the most gripping. I was hoping to read more about Hussain and what happens in his life, though. The climax of the story, though not very new, is good and well placed. The book could have been a much better read with more polish to the language. Also, being a debutant author, Hari Kumar does show the skills to create interesting plots.

Rating: ***/5

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


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Are you a 'creditcard-oholic'?

We all have that one friend (at least one) who is addicted to credit card shopping. And if we don’t, probably that one friend is us! These people have multiple cards in their possession and all of them are mostly used to their limits. When the bills are generated, these friends scamper around begging for money to pay off these bills. Only to shop with the cards again. This addiction has taken families to bankruptcy and even to jail, owing to non payment of bills.

The best thing to do is abstain from using these plastic cards unless really important. And, to look for signs, what if you are turning into a credit card addict! How would you know?

Well, for one you will never keep much cash in your wallet and if you do, you will realise your purchases are burning a hole in it. If you are shopping on impulse, or when upset, or just because a sale is on, chances are you are using the card. You realised your cards have maxed out, but instead of paying the dues, you go and get new cards for more credit! And the worst thing - you hide yours cards as well as your purchases from your spouse! You would also own a lot, I mean a hell lot of things which have never been used.

How to get out of this? Well it's difficult, it's an addiction after all. Try by disposing/freezing all the plastic cards and spending only cash. If you have the amount in your wallet, you buy it. Else, you don't. This way every purchase is accounted for. OR! Be a mystery shopper with RedQuanta! Earn while you shop and give your valuable feedbacks to the merchants at the same time!

[This blogpost is in association with RedQuanta. You can also check their blog here.]

Book Review: Five Past Midnight In Bhopal by Dominique Lapierre, Javier Moro

On the jacket:

On the night of December 3, 1984, a cyanide cloud drifted over the streets of Bhopal, India, set loose by a leak in a nearby chemical plant. When the deadly fog lifted untold numbers of the city's residents--perhaps as many as 30,000, by some accounts--lay dead, while half a million others were injured. Dominique Lapierre, a French journalist and longtime champion of India's poor, joins with Spanish writer Javier Moro to recount the terrors of that night, about which the whole truth may never be known. The deaths are but one part of the authors' long, sometimes elaborate tale, which relates how the industrial conglomerate Union Carbide had come to build its vast chemical complex at Bhopal, one meant to be a glory of technology and, ironically, to save thousands of lives brought low by insect-wrought starvation. There are few villains but many heroes in the authors' account, which explores the margins at which good intentions conflict with the profit motive, at which cost-cutting omissions yield horrifically unintended consequences. 

It all makes for a thoughtful and disturbing book. --Gregory McNamee

Review:

When I had started dating my Bhopali husband, one of the first instances of foot-in-the-mouth was when I'd said, "I used to think everyone from Bhopal has a physicial disability because of the gas tragedy." implying, how come he seemed all fine. Yes, a hateful thing to say and I am not at all proud of it. If I was him, we wouldn't be married today. But he spoke to me about the tragedy as he remembers which was not much as he was only 3 back then. In my defence, school books don't talk much about Bhopal apart from about this bone chilling tragedy. This was eight years ago. A month after we were married, he bought home this book. 

I'd read it then, cramped with fear, sadness and a heave heart. I am back in Bhopal after three years and my hands automatically reached out to this book. I re-read it, and my heart is still cramped as if bound by shackles. 

This is one rare book. The incident has not been given as much limelight and justice as it deserved; the region not being one of the prime regions of the country. What happened, why did it happened, what didn't happen, why can the Indian political system never bury the Union Carbide incident. I had read this book was banned in India. Understandable. Read it and I promise your heart will cry and your blood will boil. You will be forced to imagine yourself in that situation, because this is not a plot that has been spun but a fact in so many lives. 

A very well-researched book, very factual, yet a link is missing as Union Carbide's management had not given any inputs about the hows and the whys. The book is depressing to a large extent, after all the incident was the world's worst industrial disaster. Their suffering still continues, the least we can do is know what they are suffering. Seriously, do read this book. 

Rating: *****/5

[This review is for a book from my personal collection.]

Book Review: Hinduism: From Maya to Moksha by Vijay Singal

On the jacket: 


This book is no ordinary work on Hinduism. It, in fact, is an academic study, done in a dispassionate and comprehensive manner, of an inclusive way of life, which has evolved along-with the evolution of mankind. It brings, to the doorstep of a common reader, the travails of the history, creative genius behind mythology, essence of philosophy, various means of spiritual attainment and utility or otherwise of practices of this most misunderstood and maligned religion. Both the strengths and weaknesses of this religion of eternity, Sanatan Dharma, have been flagged emphatically. Misplaced perception of multiplicity of gods has been demolished, with great conviction.

This book has highlighted the fact that Hinduism, though religion of antiquity, is not only equally relevant today, but is also fully equipped to face the challenges of future. Such a perspective can instil bonding, pride and confidence in adherents of this great stream of liberal thought. It can also help others in acquiring an appropriate understanding of this great tradition of universal brotherhood.

Review:

When I started reading this book, I was sceptical. To be frank, I am wary of preachings which say any one religion is the best. And I had a feeling this book  includes such preachings. I am glad to admit I was wrong and reading the book was a pleasant surprise for a practising Hindu who doesn't know a lot about the  religion. 

Hinduism: From Maya to Moksha talks about the religion, as is known from centuries, what it stands for and what it doesn't. We all know that every religion and it's norms have been twisted and modified by us, their followers, for our own requirements. In this, as the newer generations keep coming in, lesser do they know about what their religion stands for, do they believe in it or not.

This book talks about the roots of hinduism, it's deities, scriptures, vedantas, ethics, beliefs, festivals, it's renaissance, it's involvement with science and many other aspects, along with what concerns us more - dilemmas of a common Hindu. 

The book is not just a guidebook for someone who wants to know what Hinduism is, in fact it should be a compulsory read for all Hindus, to know what the religion actually is and to stop practices which the religion does not support or promote. All in all a knowledgeable book.

Rating: ****/5

[This review was done on author request, however the views and opinions mentioned above are my own.]

Book Review: Amreekandesi - Masters of America by Atulya Mahajan

On the jacket:


Akhil Arora, a young, dorky engineer in Delhi, cant wait to get away from home and prove to his folks that he can be on his own. Meanwhile in a small town in Punjab, Jaspreet Singh, aka Jassi, is busy dreaming of a life straight out of American Pie. As fate would have it, they end up as roommates in Florida. But the two boys are poles apart in their perspectives and expectations of America. While Akhil is fiercely patriotic and hopes to come back to India in a few years, Jassi finds his Indian identity an uncomfortable burden and looks forward to finding an American girl with whom he can live happily ever after.

Laced with funny anecdotes and witty insights, Amreekandesi chronicles the quintessential immigrant experience, highlighting the clash of cultures, the search for identity, and the quest for survival in a foreign land.

Review:

If there ever was a bible that the nervous 20 year olds about to go abroad to study can read and get an idea of how life will be, Amreekandesi - Masters of America can be one such. On the flip-side  few chapters in the beginning can get boring if you have already lived this life and don't really want a teaser to it, but want to read the story.

The story, as the synopsis suggests, is about two young boys, from Delhi and Punjab, and their journey from preparing for their GRE tests, to finally landing on American soil, studying/living there and managing on their own. For most people who have already crossed this stage of life, it would be a flashback of their own lives. At some points, one would wonder if the book really is a memoir of the author's own experiences.

An an author, a lot of us already know Mahajan is witty and definitely not the stereotype, trying-hard-to-be-funny ones. The book reflects honesty in writing (though the bits where the author explains how things worked back in 2004 was not really required, we were all around eight years ago) and is quirky & insightful. Akhil and Jassi are indeed the two types of youngsters we can classify the Indian students studying abroad in. You will get involved with the characters and want to read on till the very end in one sitting. 

Mahajan is an author I would want to read more of. However, there were a few editorial (proof-reading) errors which did affect my reading experience a bit.

Rating: ****/5 

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

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Love to shop online? How about some cool apps to help you?

Who doesn’t love to shop? Gone are the days when only women hoarded the shopping malls for a good bargain. Even men and kids are market as well as product conscious nowadays, and have an opinion about what they want. Of course, you can be a mystery shopper with RedQuanta and have some real fun shopping as well as review the services. Nevertheless, this is where shopping apps on our smartphones come to our rescue!

Amazon Mobile, well you can buy pretty much everything here! The App is free and makes shopping from your iPhone smooth. Groupon  is an amazing app available in 70 cities so far. It uses group purchasing to help users get a price break on everything from teeth whitening to helicopter tours and also includes a good number of restaurant deals. Snaptell is awesome if you are a bookworm! Take a picture of the book/CD/DVD/video game you wish to buy and the app will pull up all stores in your neighbourhood selling it. RedLaser uses the barcode scanner and helps to compare prices; local as well as online.

GoodGuide goes a step further and suggests to you what is suitable for you and your environment, and supports barcode scanner.

Then there are snapdeal and flipkart, one stop destination apps to a wide variety of shopping options. ngpay helps us with ticketing, shopping and recharges. Ebay and OLX apps help us buy and sell with a plethora of goods for choice. Fancy is an app which helps us discover, collect and buy from some amazing catalogues.

[This blogpost is in association with RedQuanta. You can also check their blog here.]

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A pile of gift wrappers? Don’t throw them yet!

So, a birthday just went by and while the gifts made you ecstatic, you don't have the heart to throw away the pretty wrapping papers? Worry not, you can reuse them! How about you trim the spoilt parts and use them to line your drawers pretty? If the paper is really pretty, cut a neat peace and frame it; it can make for a beautiful wall decor! Have a patch of wall which your kid has drawn upon? Why don't you take a few wrapping papers, cut them in equal size and paste them alternately as wall paper? Cool, eh?

Another brilliant way is to cover your books, or even your shoe boxes. Make 'em pretty! Some wrapping papers are made of soft, tissue paper – you can wrap your delicate jewellery in them. You can cut the papers into designs of your choice and use them for party decorations. You can also cut the smooth portions from a few sheets and join them to make a fresh wrapping paper, with a personal touch. Another good idea would be to use these sheets to cover your gift boxes and make them pretty.

You can use old wrapping papers as kitchen place-mats  If the paper is very crumpled, shred it and use it as fillers in gift bags etc. You can also cut out pretty images and help your child make next year’s Christmas greetings! Lastly, you can always reuse them as wrapping paper, for someone else’s gifts and/or for your child’s craft projects! And when all of this is done, drop everything and be a mystery shopper for RedQuanta! Go on, I promise you will be thrilled.

[This blogpost is in association with RedQuanta. You can also check their blog here.]

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Are you a mystery shopper?

Recently, I got to know about mystery shopping and in turn about RedQuanta. Before I talk more about how cool being a mystery shopper is, I must tell you about RedQuanta, whose works, at least to me, is quite new and intriguing. As they call themselves, they are a new-gen mystery audit firm and are in the market to collaborate with as many organisations as possible. What do they do? Their customers are organisations for who customers and customer satisfaction come first. And for these customers, RedQuanta and their team of mystery shoppers, do some silent audits. How?

All you need to do is ask!! Of just visit them at http://www.redquanta.com/

AND! Keep a watch for this space! As I will be updating a lot of interesting stuff about shopping, on this page, in association with RedQuanta.


Book Review: Smart Phones Dumb People? by Parthajeet Sarma

On the jacket:


Parts of India and the world live in the 21st century whereas parts live in the 19th century. Whilst many of us live in times ruled by smartphones and the internet, millions go without easy access to basics like water and electricity.

We live in an opportune moment today. We have, available to us, the technological tools of the 21st century to address 19th century issues. In a fast changing world, will mankind be ruled by smartphones soon or will mankind use technology in life-changing innovations to make our societies far more equitable? Can technology be used to address the most crying needs in our societies today?

The big picture is built by stories about the modern fruits of technology and how these are being used by leadership groups to combine business with social causes. This is an easy read for anyone interested in innovation, entrepreneurship, social issues and the current challenges like excessive corruption that face us today.

Review:

You know how we see things happening around us, the obvious, but our eyes just scan over them without registering them? Sarma, in his book has spoken about the very same things and thanks to him, I at least won't be able to ignore these things. The facts that how mechanical our lives have become and how we are clueless about how to behave in the absence of technology, are some shocking truths we seldom sit back to ponder about.

Sarma grips the reader's attendance with giving real life experiences and anecdotes, about his own daughter, colleagues, and other people around him. And immediately we can relate to what he is talking about. Sarma makes sense in Smart Phones Dumb People? from Page 1. Apart from technology, he also talk about entrepreneurs, innovations brought in my technology, about corruption etc.

All in all, his basic question is, have we advanced so much, then we are unable to do the basic, i.e. think? A good, smooth, insightful read. 

Rating: ****/5

[This review is on request of PRJankari/author. However, the views expressed are my own honest opinions and the review is not a paid review.]

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: The Secrets Of The Dark By Arka Chakrabarti

On the jacket:


Is one born with his destiny or does he forge it?

In the mystical land of Gaya, two prophecies bind the fate of men and empires alike. The Destroyer born from the royal seed on the Land of the Setting Sun shall bring the empires down, or so has been foretold.

In between the Destroyer and the world stand the Seven Guardians of Gaya, guarding the realm of man. A king, a father, defies the Seven and fate itself to save the last drop of his blood and prince Agni grows in the Land of the Rising Sun, exiled from his own people, unaware of his past.

Losing the woman he loved most to the shadows in the dark, Agni is thrown into a whirlpool of events that he neither knows, nor understands. His quest for vengeance brings him to the doorstep of a secret that will shatter the very foundation of beliefs of a world.

Can Agni avert his destiny? Can he uncover the truth about the Seven and the prophecies, now hidden behind a veil of ignorance?

The secrets of the dark are sometimes so terrible that they are better left unsaid.

Review:

The Secrets Of The Dark is Arka's debut novel, but at no point did it feel like on. I will not get into the details of the story, as I always prefer, but I'd rather talk about how the author has presented it to us readers.

A historical plot set in Gaya, as one reads through the book, it gets evident that the authors has put in a lot of research as well as vivid imagination while writing the book. You travel through the plot with the protagonist and after a while share his emotions.

Though this is not one of my regular genres, it kept me engaged. And that is a really impressive feat by a debut author, to keep a reader hooked to his book, despite it not being his genre.

The plot is compact and no where does it feel off track or lost.

Definitely not a light read, the author has set pretty high expectations for himself. He knows his craft well, we can now sit back and wait; for what new tales he will spin for us.

Rating: ****/5

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

#BookReview: Turtles All The Way Down

On the jacket: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hun...