Saturday, January 25, 2014

Classics - 2014

Sometime, in December last year, I was overwhelmed with the strong urge to re-read my classics. While looking for someone else who is doing the same, I stumbled upon Heena's blog - Lazy Bookworm. 

I read the challenge she is doing, and decided to join in. Here is it.
I have been a little late in listing the books I plan to read, but here they are. I will re-read one classic a month and write about it. Not review, just write about it. The list is in no particular order, I will pick them as the mood of the month is and later, link them to the blogpost which talks about them. All these books are specially close to my heart and great favourites. I hope to read more than one classic a month, in which case, I will be adding to the list.

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Vanity, not love, has been my folly When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited, while he struggles to remain indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.
  2. Good Wives {sequel to Little Women) by Louisa May Alcott: Amy looked relieved, but naughty Jo took her at her word, for during the first call she sat with every limb gracefully composed, every fold correctly draped, calm as a summer sea, cool as a snowbank, and as silent as the sphinx. In vain Mrs. Chester alluded to her 'charming novel', and the Misses Chester introduced parties, picnics, the opera, and the fashions. Each and all were answered by a smile, a bow, and a demure "Yes" or "No" with the chill on.
  3. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë: At age 19 Anne Brontë left home and worked as a governess for a few years before becoming a writer. Agnes Grey was an 1847 novel based on her experience as a governess. Bronte depicts the precarious position of a governess and how that can affect a young woman. Agnes was the daughter of a minister whose family was in financial difficulty. She has only a few choices for employment. Agnes experiences the difficulty of reining in spoiled children and how wealth can corrupt morals. She later opens a school and finds happiness.
  4. Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde: Oscar Wilde's story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is one of his most popular works. Written in Wilde's characteristically dazzling manner, full of stinging epigrams and shrewd observations, the tale of Dorian Gray's moral disintegration caused something of a scandal when it first appeared in 1890. Wilde was attacked for his decadence and corrupting influence, and a few years later the book and the aesthetic dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde's homosexual liaisons. Of the book's value as autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be--in other ages, perhaps."
  5. Phantom Of The Opera by Gaston Leroux: First published in French as a serial in 1909, "The Phantom of the Opera" is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine's childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous 'ghost' of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster. Leroux's work, with characters ranging from the spoiled prima donna Carlotta to the mysterious Persian from Erik's past, has been immortalized by memorable adaptations. Despite this, it remains a remarkable piece of Gothic horror literature in and of itself, deeper and darker than any version that follows.
  6. Lady Chatterly's Lover by DH Lawrence: Lady Chatterley's Lover is a novel by D. H. Lawrence, first published in 1928. The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable words.  The story is said to have originated from events in Lawrence's own unhappy domestic life, and he took inspiration for the settings of the book from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, where he grew up. According to some critics, the fling of Lady Ottoline Morrell with "Tiger", a young stonemason who came to carve plinths for her garden statues, also influenced the story. Lawrence at one time considered calling the novel Tenderness and made significant alterations to the text and story in the process of its composition. It has been published in three versions.
  7. Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain: In this enduring and internationally popular novel, Mark Twain combines social satire and dime-novel sensation with a rhapsody on boyhood and on America's pre-industrial past. Tom Sawyer is resilient, enterprising, and vainglorious, and in a series of adventures along the banks of the Mississippi he usually manages to come out on top. From petty triumphs over his friends and over his long-suffering Aunt Polly, to his intervention in a murder trial, Tom engages readers of all ages. He has long been a defining figure in the American cultural imagination.  Alongside the charm and the excitement, the novel also raises questions about identity, and about attitudes to class and race. Above all, Twain's study of childhood brings into focus emergent notions of individual and literary maturity.
  8. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." - Ernest Hemingway  Of all the contenders for the title of The Great American Novel, none has a better claim than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Intended at first as a simple story of a boy's adventures in the Mississippi Valley - a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - the book grew and matured under Twain's hand into a work of immeasurable richness and complexity. More than a century after its publication, the critical debate over the symbolic significance of Huck's and Jim's voyage is still fresh, and it remains a major work that can be enjoyed at many levels: as an incomparable adventure story and as a classic of American humor.
  9. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens: 'Let him feel that he is one of us; once fill his mind with the idea that he has been a thief, and he's ours, - ours for his life!'  The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens's tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters — the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, in Oliver Twist Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.  This is the first critical edition to use the serial text of 1837-9, presenting Oliver Twist as it appeared to its earliest readers. It includes Dickens's 1841 introduction and 1850 preface, the original illustrations and a glossary of contemporary slang.
  10. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: 'Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; -- the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!'   After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.  This edition uses the text as it appeared in its serial publication in 1859 to convey the full scope of Dickens's vision, and includes the original illustrations by H. K. Browne ('Phiz'). Richard Maxwell's introduction discusses the intricate interweaving of epic drama with personal tragedy.
  11. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: David Copperfield is the story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr. Murdstone; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora; and the magnificently impecunious Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations.  In David Copperfield—the novel he described as his “favorite child”—Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of his most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure.  Originally published as a monthly serial, from May 1849 to November 1850.
  12. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: One of the best-loved and most quoted stories of “the man who invented Christmas”—English writer Charles Dickens—A Christmas Carol debuted in 1843 and has touched millions of hearts since.   Cruel miser Ebeneezer Scrooge has never met a shilling he doesn’t like...and hardly a man he does. And he hates Christmas most of all. When Scrooge is visited by his old partner, Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, he learns eternal lessons of charity, kindness, and goodwill. Experience a true Victorian Christmas!
I am currently reading Oliver Twist (Jan, '14).

Synopsis credit: Goodreads

Friday, January 24, 2014

#BookReview : You Can't Fight Royal Attraction by Ruchi Vasudeva

On the jacket:


The last thing Rihaan needs in his life is to play host to a woman who drives him crazy! Saira is gorgeous, yes, but she’s also wildly infuriating. Yet every time she comes within an inch of him he finds his normally iron-clad control slipping further and further away…  Wanting to protect herself from more heartbreak, Saira knows she should keep her distance from Rihaan —but there’s something about him she just can’t seem to resist… Little does she know that Rihaan is hiding a secret! When it comes to light will it tear them apart —or raise their passion to new, more majestic heights?

Review:

Recently, Mills & Boons are being written by Indian authors, in Indian settings and with Indian characters. I used to be very skeptical about this very on M&Bs, yet with every book I have read, I keep getting more impressed. The Indian Author Collection of M&Bs are everything Indian romance books are usually not, they are not cheesy, filmy or unrealistic. Instead, these are very fine reads. Ruchi Vasudeva's You Can't Fight a Royal Attraction is one of the newest releases.

The characters, Saira and Rihaan, are not over the top, in fact, very realistic and well defined. Saira is not someone the reader can fall in love with immdeiately, but the author has managed to coax the reader into doing so. Not an extraordinary love story, but I enjoyed reading it - mainly for the author's skill of story telling which is sharp and rather easy-flowing. 

If you dig M&Bs, there is no reason why you wouldn't want to read You Can't Fight a Royal Attraction.

Rating: ****/5

[This is an author request review, however the opinions are my own.]

#BookReview : The Ekkos Clan by Sudipto Das

On the jacket:


"The Ekkos Clan" is the story of Kratu’s search for the killers of his family, his own roots and the mystery behind his grandmother’s stories.  It’s the fascinating account of Kubha and the basketful of folklore she inherited from her ancestors. The eventful lives of Kubha and her family span a hundred years and encompass turbulent phases of Indian history. The family saga unfurls gradually, along with Kubha’s stories, through the three main characters – Kratu Sen, a grad student at Stanford, Kratu’s best friend Tista Dasgupta, and Afsar Fareedi, a linguistic palaeontologist.  Afsar hears about Kubha’s stories from Kratu in a casual conversation, but she figures that these stories are not meant to be mere bed time tales – they contain rich linguistic fossils and layers of histories.  In a bizarre incident Kratu miraculously survives an attempt on his life. His sister and uncle had not been so lucky. Were these murders acts of revenge, or a larger ideological conflict connected to Kubha’s stories which conceal perilous secrets that should be suppressed?  Afsar, Kratu and Tista travel across continents to unravel the mystery of Kubha’s roots and the origin of her stories.  At a different level, the novel subtly delves into the origin of one of the oldest civilizations of the world and the first book written by mankind.

Review:

Ekkos Clan is Kratu's story, of her quest in finding her family's killers, and talks about generations of people in a family. Written by a debutante author, the plot shows skills of a seasoned author, actually.

A beautiful, roller coaster of a reading ride which takes you to the past, brings you to the present and even throws you into the future. Personally, I haven't read this kind of a book by any Indian author yet, and it was a true treat. A fast paced, thriller, Ekkos Clan is a page turner. 

Not your regular thriller, because when you read, you realise how much research must have gone in writing it. Based in Bangladesh, the plot takes you along to places and situations, where you get the feeling of being a bystander and looking through the proceedings.

Rating: ****.5/5

[This was a PR request review. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

#BookReview : On a Clear Day, You Can See India - The Little World of the District Official in India's North East by C. Balagopal

On the jacket:


A glimpse into the intricacies and challenges of governing remote and overlooked areas in the North East   'Balagopal, this is Kerala. This is not Manipur!   This was a refrain that I often heard and was something that I only gradually came to understand. It was clearly based on the unstated premise that Manipur belonged to a region that was quite different from the rest of India, where presumably even the laws were different (not true) and where the administration approached issues from a very different perspective (quite true).   Using notes and diaries from his days as an IAS officer, C. Balagopal presents a collection of anecdotes from his brief sojourn in Manipur nearly three decades ago. A clear-eyed look at the nitty-gritty of governance in the remote north east of India, On a Clear Day, You Can See India is embellished with Balagopal s memories which were remarkably fresh despite the passage of time. With a narrative that tries to steer clear of commenting on the contentious issues and tensions that arose in the area after Balagopal's departure, we see how the administration working in distant district and sub-divisional headquarters contends with issues at the ground level, far from the legislatures and High Courts and get a glimpse into the inner processes of a typical small government office.

Review:

This was a very interesting read. We know how biased we all are as a country, specially towards the north eastern states of India. While we still know a bit about Assam, we only have misconceptions and/or no concrete information about the states further eat.

In this book, the author has thrown light on Manipur - the state, the people, the culture, based on his short stint in the state, as an IAS officer. Being in the position he was, the author throws light and gives us a sneak peak on the state's small government and how it functions. 

Extensive, yet safe (the author has steered away from controversies of the land), this is a very good read, educative to see the least. Written in a very engaging style, the author has written a good book, specially, the content being something which opens a whole new world for us, who are somewhat ignorant.

Rating: ****/5

[This was a PR request review. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

#BookReview : The Einstein Pursuit (Jonathon Payne & David Jones #8) by Chris Kuzneski

On the jacket:


A hidden collective of the world's greatest minds has developed a radical new approach to modern medicine which could change everything we know about the human body. But such knowledge does not come without risk. When their laboratory is attacked, it becomes clear that someone will stop at nothing to keep this research from reaching the masses. 

As more details come to light, Investigator Nick Dial realises that these scientists have been operating in the shadows for more than a century. What is more, the team was founded by none other than Albert Einstein himself. What had they learned? And why would someone want them dead?

It is a mystery that draws Payne and Jones in. On a collision course with the man behind the massacre, the duo must follow the history of scientific discovery in order to stop a villain determined to use modern advancements to create his own vision of the future - a future where he alone controls who may live and who will die...

Review:

This was my first read of Kuzneski and I am happy to say, I am a fan. I need to own the rest of his books, and read them soon. Personally, I love thrillers and The Einstein Pursuit had me glued from page one.

A scientific institute in Stockholm is mysteriously burnt down. The Interpol is called to investigate. Innocent scientists have died, in what seemed like a deliberate fire. A quick read, with very well defined characters and a racy plot, this book keeps you glued. 

A dash of humour, a lot of nail biting suspense and a whole lot of thrill, The Einstein Pursuit ia an action packed thriller which one simple needs to read, if they love thrillers. Payne and Jones get dragged in a case which needs to be solved and while the stakes are high, the villains mean business.

Rating: ****/5

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

#BookReview : Only One Life To Give by Wing Commander Arun Kaul (Retd.)

On the jacket:

An Air Force officer who upholds the nation's dignity...

A sister who gives her life to care for her younger sibling...
A bureaucrat who pays with his life for upholding his duty...
A father who rises above personal grief... 

Only One Life to Give is a collection of stories of such individuals who live by the values of compassion, honesty and dignity. 

The collection is an attempt to create a circle of influence t
hat encourages us to extend a helping hand to strangers, family and friends. It is these circles of influence that help us build a tight knit society.

Review:

When I received this book for review, I was genuinely not sure what to expect inside and to be truthful, I began reading with zilch expectations. But, once I finished reading it, I recommended two other people in the family to read it. 

An anthology of short stories, Only One Life To Give is a collection of fifteen stories from the Air Force. I am guessing they are straight out of the author's life, or inspired by real life incidents. 

Heart touching, educative, and very humane, these stories touch a few raw nerves and make you think. The way human emotions have been displayed, show very fine craftsmanship. Characters can be related to and after reading every story, one can clearly understand why, people in the Indian Air Force are respected so much. 

I personally love short stories, they speak volumes in just a few pages. And Only One Life To Give is an easy read, yet it's the kind in which, after every story, you might want to take some time off to ponder.

Rating: ****/5

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

#BookReview : Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

On the jacket:

Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908) is the most important woman in Chinese history. She ruled China for decades and brought a medieval empire into the modern age. At the age of sixteen, in a nationwide selection for royal consorts, Cixi was chosen as one of the emperor’s numerous concubines. When he died in 1861, their five-year-old son succeeded to the throne. Cixi at once launched a palace coup against the regents appointed by her husband and made herself the real ruler of China—behind the throne, literally, with a silk screen separating her from her officials who were all male.  
In this groundbreaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. Under her the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, the telegraph and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. It was she who abolished gruesome punishments like “death by a thousand cuts” and put an end to foot-binding. She inaugurated women’s liberation and embarked on the path to introduce parliamentary elections to China. Chang comprehensively overturns the conventional view of Cixi as a diehard conservative and cruel despot.  
Cixi reigned during extraordinary times and had to deal with a host of major national crises: the Taiping and Boxer rebellions, wars with France and Japan—and an invasion by eight allied powers including Britain, Germany, Russia and the United States. Jung Chang not only records the Empress Dowager’s conduct of domestic and foreign affairs, but also takes the reader into the depths of her splendid Summer Palace and the harem of Beijing’s Forbidden City, where she lived surrounded by eunuchs—one of whom she fell in love, with tragic consequences. The world Chang describes here, in fascinating detail, seems almost unbelievable in its extraordinary mixture of the very old and the very new.  
Based on newly available, mostly Chinese, historical documents such as court records, official and private correspondence, diaries and eyewitness accounts, this biography will revolutionize historical thinking about a crucial period in China’s—and the world’s—history. Packed with drama, fast paced and gripping, it is both a panoramic depiction of the birth of modern China and an intimate portrait of a woman: as the concubine to a monarch, as the absolute ruler of a third of the world’s population, and as a unique stateswoman.

Review:

This is an exhaustive book, in many ways, not just the number of pages. I was most curious to read this, because when reading non-fiction, I enjoy nothing more than reading about other cultures, dynasties and people. China is literally next doors, but there isn't much I, personally know about the country, despite my family having ties with Beijing. 

It's unfortunate that our history books talk about very few women leaders; it was indeed a treat to read about Empress Dowager. Reading about her and nineteenth century imperial China. Change has put in extensive research and brought alive a China which existed in the past and paved way for what the country is today. As a woman, I sympathised and in some way understood Chang's feelings about Cixi being so ignored in history books.

If you enjoy history, this is a very good read for you to soak in.

Rating: ****/5

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

Sunday, January 12, 2014

#BookReview : Done With Men by Shuchi Singh Kalra

On the jacket:


Travel journo, Kairavi Krishna (Kay) has had it with men. After a series of disasters (losers, philanderers, leeches, mama's boys and possessive psychos), she is all too tempted to walk out on the prospect of ever finding love. Accompanied by her best friend and flat-mate Baani, she sets off for Goa, hoping to get away from her miserable love life and vowing to stay clear of the male species.   Goa however, has a host of surprises in store for her. Ricky, her pesky ex-boyfriend, is busy painting the town red with his hot new girlfriend. Now what is poor Kay to do other than overdose on vodka, smoke pot, get an outrageous tattoo and fall off the hotel balcony? She wakes up in the hospital to the tender ministrations of Dr.Vivian D'Mello--young, suave and handsome as hell. Will Kay stick to her guns or will she fall for his ridiculously sexy charms? And what's up with the mixed signals he's giving out?

Review:

I have been reading Shuchi's blogs since a while now, so when she got in touch with me to review her forthcoming book, there was no doubt I will. I love the way she writes, so reading her book, to me, would mean, reading something nice. And, I was not wrong.

Done With Men is not what I thought it to be. I had expected it to be a man-hater woman's story, until I read the synopsis. Kairavi Krishna, better known as Kay is done with men, after a string of unsuccessful. Her boss gives her an assignment to cover the Sunburn in Goa; her best friend whose boyfriend is already there, also tags along. Soon, Kay lands up in a hospital, with a cracked Clavicle. Here, she meets Dr Vivian D'Mello, and both of don't hit it off in the first instance, at all. Soon the rough edges are smoothed and they start spending more time. However, the ex-boyfriend also lands up in Goa and Kay faces some major confusions about Vivian's  marital status. 

A fun read, and the best part is that, nothing about the plot is pretentious or over the top. Shuchi's writing is smooth flowing and entertaining. Characters are realistic and well defined; the plot is well spun, eventful with lots of turns and unexpected events. Does Kay find the love of her life in the end?

The book releases on Feburary 14, and can be bought online.
On Amazon, you can buy it at: http://www.amazon.com/Done-With-Shuchi-Singh-Kalra-ebook/dp/B00GO3H88Y 
Read about it on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20328900-done-with-men?from_search=true  

Rating: ****/5

[This is an author request review. However, the views are honest and my own opinion of the book.]

Saturday, January 4, 2014

#BookReview : Uff Ye Emotions 2 Edited by Vinit K. Bansal

On the jacket:


Like the lyrics of an old song, which keeps repeating themselves in our mind or a fever dormant in the blood or an importunate lover impossible to get rid of, the memories of love or 'love' itself keeps returning in our lives again and again at the oddest of times and the strangest of places.  Randomly, beautifully, haphazardly or passionately, love lives up again—for it has been waiting for you, waiting for this union, waiting to merge with YOU at last. So, keeping the trend alive and after the roaring success of our novice, Uff Ye Emotions, we are back once again with Uff Ye Emotions-2.  With Love, comes many emotions—some of them being pain, betrayal, hatred, hope and friendship. We fall IN and OUT of love time and again, but we can never be tired of it—because it is one of the only few aspects of life we can’t keep ourselves away from, isn’t it?  Selected and edited by Vinit K. Bansal, this time again 11 touching stories from authors across the country, will be delighting the readers who swear by love stories. And for those who don’t read love stories much, come and discover why they are so engrossing.

Review:

Uff Ye Emotions is a collection of eleven short stories, edited by Vinit K Bansal. Two of the authors, Meghant Parmar and Heena Ahuja are known to me, so I began reading with their story. Meghant and Heena's story is titles Love and Sacrifices, a story of a Gujarati woman and a Scottish man whose love goes through testing times and their story is written by their son. A very racy and filmy story line, this story could well be made into a fast paced teleseries, probably. Both authors have spun a fine tale of love and sacrifices.

After reading this story, I read the book as it should be - from the beginning. The first story is The Client by Vinit himself, a love story of a business tycoon and a prostitute. The story has strong hints of the movie Pretty Woman, though the climax is different and leaves one a bit sad. A very fine treatement given to a plot, which has been oft used.

There is Moksha by Kunal Marathe, When Destiny Strikes! by Mahi Singla, The Woman Who Waited... by Shalini Katyal, The Pale Pigeon by Siddhartha Yadav, Hickey by Heema Shirvaikar, NCERT Of L_O_V_E by Himanshu Chhabra and Udita Pal, I'll Be There by Ishani Malhotra, Dilemma  by Tarang Sinha and 120 minutes by Saravana Kumar Murugan. Every story is distinct, and different from the other. 

Editing leaves a lot to be desired and unfortunately, it affected my reading experience quite a bit. 

Rating: ***/5

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

#BookReview : Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law

On the jacket:

Of all the continents, Asia is the gayest. Deep down, youve probably had your suspicions all along and Im here to tell you those suspicions are correct. So begins Gaysia, Benjamin Laws wildly witty investigation of gay life in the biggest continent. We follow him as he takes an in-depth look at resorts for gay nudists in Bali; transexualism and three formal genders in Thailand; Chinas underground gay resistance; Japan and the most breathtakingly messed-up porn; religious fundamentalists of all persuasions keen on curing homosexuality in Malaysia; sex workers and the spread of HIV in Myanmar; and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, gay pride parades and encounters with gay royalty and a popular spiritual guru in India.  Hilarious, perceptive and poignant, Gaysia is a refreshing look at an aspect of Asia that has gone ignored too long.

Review:

I don't know if it's ironic, but this book landed home, the day the uproar over Section 377 began. Personally, it couldn't have arrived at a better time. Someone I had recently follow on twitter had tweeted to straight people who claim to sympathize  with gays, something like - you say you understand, but do you really?

No. Do not, and probably, can not. Because, one needs to be in another person's shoes to understand. I know I am not prejudiced and love my gay & straight friends alike. But I cannot deny, I don't understand their (gay friends) life as well as I understand mine. I also do not understand the point of segregation, based on our sexual desires. Nevertheless, back to the book. 

In Gaysia, Law talks about lives of gays in the East, their lifestyles and culture. It's a kind of a travelogue, covering most of the countries, namely - Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Burma, China, Malaysia and India. Though, when we read deeper into the book, we notice, more than being a travelogue it is an insight to the cultures and lifestyles. 

The book was an eye opener for me. There is so much I didn't know, and I am pained to know, now. Everyone should read this book, specially every Indian. There is so much we don't know and chose to ignore; yet so much of it is a harsh reality to a lot of people. Quirky and humorous, yet one cannot miss the angst in between the pages. 

Rating: *****/5

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

#BookReview : Savita: The Tragedy That Shook A Nation by Kitty Holland

On the jacket:


Seventeen weeks pregnant and facing a miscarriage, Savita Halappanavar and her husband Praveen walked into an Irish maternity ward in October 2012. Unwittingly, the couple also walked into that deeply controversial arena in which Ireland's legislative position on abortion remained unresolved. A week later, Savita was dead from septicaemia. Reports of her death and of the refusal to allow Savita a termination of her pregnancy sent shockwaves across Ireland and around the world. Once again the subject of abortion was catapulted to the very top of the agenda in Ireland. With the pro-life and pro-choice camps claiming the moral high ground, both sides in the bitterly contested battle sought to appropriate Savita's story and her image.   In the midst of the ensuing rage and furore, the marches and protests, the threats and counter-threats that exploded across political and media platforms, Savita and the complete circumstances of her death were lost.  In Savita: The Tragedy That Shook A Nation, Kitty Holland addresses this imbalance as she reveals the truth behind the headlines and explores many unanswered questions: Who was Savita? How significant was it that she was a non-Irish, non-Catholic woman in search of help on Irish soil? And how did her husband and her community's reaction to her death shape the parameters of the debate which followed? Holland's exposé also looks at how the tragic circumstances of Savita's death played a part in compelling the Irish Government to finally legislate on abortion and how activists on each side succeeded or failed in shaping that legislation.

Review:

In 2012, we were shocked to hear about Savita Halappanavar's death, following the Irish government not allowing her to abort her pregnancy, a pregnancy which posed as a threat to her life, ultimately. Post a miscarriage, she needed an abortion, which was denied. As a result, she diagnosed with septicemia which led to multiple organ failure and her death. 

In her book, Savita: The Tragedy That Shook A Nation, Holland has written Savita's storr, brought to us, her life. And, her death. Savita's death became an issue between two nations, it led to widespread protests towards the Irish laws. So much, that even the UN had to get involved. 

Savita: The Tragedy That Shook A Nation could be any random story, except that it is a true account of someone's life. Protests over Savita's death blew out of proportion. So much, that the main cause, took backseat. As they always do. 

An interesting read, with thorough insight to the real lives of people involved, rather than what we got to know from newspaper reports.

Rating: ****/5

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

#BookReview : Fit at 40 by Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai

On the jacket:


A practical guide to staying fit, healthy and younger looking in the 40s. Are you afraid of turning 40? 40 is an important milestone in our life. Yet, this is often the time when the bodys metabolism reduces progressively and a lot of health problems such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, muscle and joint pain enter our lives. In Fit at 40, renowned obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai will give you a lowdown on major health issues that plague us in the 40s, the importance of a healthy diet, and offer advice, solutions, precautions and tips to stay healthy, look younger and keep midlife crisis at bay, forever.

Review:

With a foreword by Raveena Tandon and an afterword by Padmini Kolhapure, Fit at 40 is a complete guidebook to a healthy lifestyle for those who have or are nearing 40. The book also has inputs from it's panel of experts - fitness & nutrition expert Leena Mogre, pain & weight management consultant Dr Sarita Davare, and Dr Purnima Mhatre, MD of Gorgeous Skin Pvt Ltd.

Fit at 40 talks about embracing the 40s - changes in the body, weight gains, loss of bladder control, changes in hair, hot flushes, changes in vision - everything that, we have seen our elders worry about once they hit 40. It was interesting to know that Asian women suffer less because of our body types.

In the 40s, many are known to face anxiety, depression, hot flashes, mood changes etc. Fibroids are a common cause of concern these days. Hysterectomy is talked about at a stretch. Pai has gone in depth about each and every one of the issues which women in their 40s face and explained the whys and the hows, in depth.

Rating: *****/5

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

#BookReview: Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones #3) by Helen Fielding

On the jacket:


Bridget Jones is back!  Great comic writers are as rare as hen's teeth. And Helen is one of a very select band who have created a character of whom the very thought makes you smile. Bridget Jones' Diary, charting the life of a 30-something singleton in London in the 1990s was a huge international bestseller, published in 40 countries and selling over 15 million copies worldwide. Its sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, published soon after was also a major international bestseller. Both were made into films starring Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.  Set in the present, the new novel will explore a different phase in Bridget's life with an entirely new scenario. As Helen Fielding has said: "If people laugh as much reading it as I am while writing it then we'll all be very happy."

Review:

I was totally unprepared for a new Bridget Jones' book and caught unawares. Even before I read it, I got to know that Darcy is no more. That was major heartbreak and I had promptly decided, I won't read this book. But, then curiosity took over - how did Fielding frame the story without Darcy in it? How? So, I picked up the book to read.

Sorry, Darcy cannot die. Without Darcy, Bridget and his life is boring. Darcy was not supposed to die. Bridget is still the same - confused, and clueless, even though now she is in her 50s. She misses her husband and in a few pages, we get the feeling of nostalgia. But apart from that, it's the same old Bridget, no Darcy though. 

Bridget is far from perfect, and we all fell in love with her, a heart tucked in our hearts, when she had a happily-ever-after with Darcy. But this third book is disappointing, coz .. no Darcy. This part was actually not required, the author could have begin with a new series. 

I apologize if you aren't that great a Darcy fan, and actually read the series, only for Bridget. I won't belittle the author's skills as a writer, coz she has most certainly spun a nice story. Yes, the story was always Bridget's, you may say. Though, if like me, you fell in love with Darcy and the fond remembrance with Austen's Pride & Prejudice as well, you might be a tad bit disappointed.

Rating: ***/5

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

Friday, January 3, 2014

#BookReview: Hair Yoga: Caring for your hair the right way by Jawed Habib

On the jacket:

This book has a foreword and cartoons by Sudhir Tailang. Jawed Habib is one of the top hair stylists in the industry. Jawed Habib Hair and Beauty Pvt. Ltd. is the leading player in the hair and beauty segment in India. It is one of the largest unisex salon chains in India with a presence across 62 cities. At present, the company has over 340 salon outlets and 47 salon academies in India. The book has everything about hair carefrom taking care of dandruff, to greying, to balding.

Review:

Hair Yoga is not just a book about hair care. It also gives us a sneak peak into how and why Jawed Habib is what he is today. I remember, growing up, Habib's was the first ever chain of salons which can come up in India and it was quite a novel idea, women going to men for having their hair styled. Till then, the quintessential beauty parlours were oft frequented by the middle and upper middle class Indian. 

Jawed Habib speaks about how he had groomed himself, to be what he is today. This was important to know, to go on to read how to take care of our most prized assets, from someone who knows what he is talking about. (eg) We know that coconut oil, sesame, mustard oil etc are good for our hair - but how and why is explained in this book.

From answering frequently asked questions to minutely explaining how all our hair types are different, helping readers identify what their hair types are, to talking about oiling, washing, conditioning, brushing, colouring, and, protecting our hair, Jawed has told in this book, all one needs to know, probably. He has also explained why and what kind of lifestyle is needed for having the best quality of hair and also how to take care of children's hair.

Personally, I found Hair Yoga to be a very handy guidebook, to refer to at any point, any season, to know about the right kind of hair care.

Rating: ****/5

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




#Giveaway : You Can't Fight A Royal Attraction by Ruchi Vasudeva



The last thing Rihaan needs in his life is to play a host to a woman who drives him crazy, Saira is gorgeous, yes, but she's also widlly infuriating. Yet every time she comes within an inch of him he finds his normally iron - clad control slipping further and further away Wanting to protect herself from more heartbreak, Saira knows she should keep her distance from Rihaan but there's something about him she just can't seem to resist Little does she know that Rihaan is hiding a secret. When it comes to light will it tear them apart or raise their passion to new more majestic heights?


Here is a chance 

to win a copy of 

You Can't Fight A Royal Attraction 

by 
Ruchi Vasudeva


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 2, 2014

#Giveaway : Scandal Point by Fahad Samar


and 


bring to you a chance to win a copy of

  Scandal Point by Fahad Samar


About the book:

Not only is Ricky Kumar, handsome hunk and mama's boy, being prepared for his launch as a Bollywood star, he has also just managed to score with the love of his life. But things begin to go horribly wrong when London born playboy and restaurant tycoon Gautam Goyal checks into a drug rehab facility in Mumbai. A case of mistaken identity looks like it will lose Ricky everything he has been poised to achieve and pits the two against each other in a struggle played out in the harsh glare of the media spotlight. A wicked, sharply observed satire of Bollywood, high society shenanigans and our obsession with celebrity, Scandal Point is an unputdownable novel, at once hilarious and thought provoking.

About HarperCollins Inda:

HarperCollins Publishers India Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of HarperCollins Worldwide. HarperCollins India has shown phenomenal growth in the past few years and publishes fiction, non-fiction and poetry by diverse writers like Nayantara Sahgal, A.P.J Kalam, S. Radhakrishnan, Kamala Das, Kunal Basu, Tarun Tejpal, Deepak Chopra, Ruchir Joshi, Rana Dasgupta, Kiran Nagarkar, Meghnad Desai, Mukul Deva, Jaishree Mishra and Anita Nair. It has also successfully built a list of talented first time writers including Advaita Kala, Anuja Chauhan, Karan Bajaj, Jahnvi Achrekar, Amitabh Bagchi, Kishwar Desai, Pallavi Aiyar and Ameen Merchant. HarperCollins India is also the publisher of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2008. 


Terms and conditions of the giveaway:

1.  Answer below.

2. Giveaway is restricted to India only.

3. Giveaway will be valid only for 24 hours.

4. Decision taken by the judges will be final and cannot be disputed. 

5. The contest is open to all residents in India, albeit residing in places where couriers deliver.

6. Only entries in English will be considered eligible for the contest.

7. The winning entries will win a copy of Scandal Point by Fahad Samar. The book would be sent within 2-3 weeks after the result is declared. Winner shall be kept updated about the same.

8. Multiple entries are not allowed.

THE WINNER OF 
Scandal Point by Fahad Samar
IS
TANIA SINHA!
CONGRATULATIONS!

#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...