Friday, January 23, 2015

#BookReview: How to stop your grownup from making bad decisions (Nina the Philosopher, #1) by Judy Balan

On the jacket:

Nina has questions.   Are moms just little girls who are taller and wear prettier shoes? Can I call pest control services to get rid of a pesky seven-year-old boy? What if my sister is a voodoo high priestess? Is a grownup refusing to grow up the same as someone pretending to be asleep? Are teachers not allowed to admit they're wrong?   WHO. LEFT. PARENTS. IN. CHARGE?  Somebody had better have the answers.  Big announcement: Nina's mom is going to marry Dhiraj! He's not the wicked stepfather by any stretch of the imagination. He's much, much worse. He's a rapper! And a bad one at that. And his rapper name is Dhiraj Fist aka Diddy Blood. Case rested. After all, dumb is the new wicked.  Nina must stop this catastrophe, but she's going to need co-conspirators. With her sister Nikki, who seems to keep disappearing mysteriously, and her mother's best friend, Ashwin Uncle, who's now fighting with her mother, Nina must find a way to save her favourite grownup from making a really bad decision. Because, really, grownups just can't be trusted to make the best life choices.  As sweet as it is funny, Nina the Philosopher is a brilliant, witty, thought-provoking series that tells the story of a modern-day fairy tale: a single mother and her two wonderful, hilariously angst-ridden daughters. It's the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Without a wimp. Or a diary.  The book is beautifully designed and illustrated by a remarkably talented new artist, Priyanka Shyam.


I have been reading Judy since she was just a blogger and am one of her fans. No, that doesn't mean I am biased. I'd loved Two Fates but didn't like Sophie Says that much. So here I have her first book for young adults and let me be frank, this is Judy's forte. 

How to stop your grownup from making bad decisions is a collection of excerpts from Nina's diary. Oh wait! Nina is a blogger. Yes, she's cool that way. Your average, over-thinking pre-teen who wants to do the right things in their literal sense but is totally harassed by the grow-ups in her life. The eleven year old, in her own world, sees the rest of the world as it should be seen - where elders say something yet do something else, don't get the basics of life and can make the silliest of decisions. 

Younger daughter to a single mother, she feels she is her mother's mother at times and her sister Nikki ... well, let's not talk about Nikki *rolls eyes*. Then there are her grandparents who are much fun and there is Ashwin uncle who is the most fun to be. Her mother is dating someone who goes by the name Diddy Blood and fancies himself to be a rapper. If a rapper as her mom's boyfriend wasn't enough, the man had a seven year old son Polka Dot who was sent to this world just to annoy Nina, one would think.

Judy has got the essence of a pre-teen's mind to a T. Characters are well-defined and so easy to relate to - specially, Nina. Also, it doesn't matter how old you are, you will relate to Nina's joys, confusions and frustrations with the elders in her life. 

I have read quite a few books for young adults by Indian as well as foreign authors, over the last year and I have no qualms in admitting I found 'most' of them disappointing. Everyone is trying to ape The Twilight. Whatever for? Give a pre-teen a story about pre-teens living normal lives. A twelve-year-old me would have lapped this book up and waited for more. Even now, I lapped it up over a few hours and yes, am waiting for more similar books from Judy.

I almost forgot to add, I loved the cover design. 

Rating: *****/5

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

#BookReview : Dancing With Demons by Nidhie Sharma

On the jacket:

Karan Pratap Singh is on the brink of winning the Amateur Boxing Championship, when in a moment, he loses it all. His fall from glory seems fuelled by ruthless arrogance and an out-of-control anger management problem. That, however is just symptomatic of a deeper issue. Buried under layers of his fractured subconscious lies a childhood secret he cannot come to terms with.  Sonia Kapoor is a beautiful, volatile young woman with a secret that torments her at night but a secret that she feels no guilt for.  When fate throws Karan and Sonia together in Mumbai, their personal demons and pasts collide and stir up trouble in their fragile and uncertain present. But, is redemption possible without forgiveness?  Dancing with Demons is a fast-paced action drama of love, loss and resurrection.


Dancing with Demons is basically a sportsman's love story. The cover does justice to it, if you look at it closely. Another amazing thing about this book is that, I heard it's being made into a motion picture? 

Karan is expected to be the next best thing in the world of boxing, Karan is all set for the biggest match of his life. Things go wrong and not only does he lose the match, but also faces a ban of four years. Needless to say, Karan is shattered and so is his coach Jerry, who is more like a father figure to Karan.

Karan meets Sonia who seems to have turned up in Mumbai the same fateful night that he lost his match and come to stay in his neighbourhood. Sonia has a past she is hiding and Karan is fighting his own demons. 

Two people fighting their demons are brought together by fate and one day, both decide to faight their respective demons. Love does bloom in between them but at the cost of what? Can their kill their demons successfully?

The story line is interesting but for me it sort of dragged. The author has done a good job in framing the plot and the characters but it could have been done in fewer pages, I think. Also, the pace could have been quicker. 

Rating: ***/5

#BookReview: The Perfect Groom by Sumeetha Manikandan

On the jacket:

Very little has gone right in Nithya’s young life. So, when a proposal from a young, handsome NRI comes along, her mother jumps at the opportunity and packs her daughter off to the US with her perfect groom.  Nithya seems to have settled in with Ashok, ostensibly happy, if as yet childless, in her new life. When an old flame comes back into her life, however, the cracks in her perfect marriage begin to show… 


Most love stories begin..well, at the beginning. Two people meet, sense attraction, deny it, cannot, they give up, and fall in love. The Perfect Groom doesn't have any of your regular love stories.

This story is about Nithya, now living in the US with a man she married in an arranged marriage. Back home, she has a mother and sister. Nithya's husband Ashok is distant and their relationship is not one per cent of what regular married people are. Manikandan has manintaned an air of mystery around Ashok's behavior. MArried for three years, Nithya is expected to bear a child. This story has everything - your regular dramatic and mean mother-in-law, a struggling mother, a doting sister, a mysterious husband, gossipy relatives and a regular woman trying to stay strong.

To everyone, Nithya's life is perfect but in real, it's hollow and she is waiting for her own sister to get married so that she could get out of this sham. There where is the love?

It comes from where Nithya least expected it to, from her past. I do not want to divulge of give you even a peak into the story because I really want you to read this one. I read it in one sitting, I had to know what happened in the next page, and the next, and the next...

Rating: *****/5

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

#BookReview: Pyar aur Poetry by Roopa Menon

On the jacket:

College beauty Arundhati Basu would rather stick her head in the proverbial oven than host this year’s Founder’s Day event with tongue-tied nerd, Nikhil Menon. Compared to the brilliant but elusive poet, D. G. Beckett, Nikhil is a green toad.  As Arundhati gets to know him, however, she finds herself oddly drawn to the shy geek, and he, in turn, grows in confidence as he spends more time with her. His hopes for a lasting relationship with Arundhati seemed to be within his reach.  If only she could forget D. G. Beckett!


Pyaar Aur Poetry is a kind of story I read after a long, long time. Yes, opposites meet and sparks fly, but the treatment given to the plot makes hearts dance in one's heart. 

A story about typical SoBo pretentious snob, Arundhati Basu and awkward, toungue-tied Nikhil Menon but the interesting angle is thrown in my the very mysterious and brilliant poet D G Beckett, who no one really knows about. Arundhati and Nikhil are absolute opposites but by a sadistic twist of fate (or so it seems), there are thrown together and need to work as a team.

When they get to know each other, Arundhati and Nikhil seem to be falling for each other. But! D G Beckett rules Arundhati's mind and curiosity. So what happens? Does Arundhati find out who this mysterious man is? Does she leave Nikhil for this man who had invoked the emotions in her that she didn't knew existed?

A very well-scripted tale of love, Menon has proved she is an author to look out for. The characters are very well-crafted and people one can easily identify with. A lovely story.

Rating: ****/5

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

Friday, January 9, 2015

#BookReview : The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

On the jacket:

I’m a dead woman, or I shall be soon…’  Hercule Poirot's quiet supper in a London coffeehouse is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered.  She is terrified – but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.  Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at a fashionable London Hotel have been murdered, and a cufflink has been placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim...


I am a big, big fan of Christie and her series of Poirot/Marple novels. Nobody creates a mystery and unravels it the way she used to, in my honest opinion. So, when I saw Hannah's book, a novel featuring Christie's beloved Poirot, approaved by the legacy - I had to read it. the blurb sounded interesting too.

But let me tell you, I was disappointed. Firstly, this is a big, relatively thick book. Christie finished telling her stories in almost about half the number of words. So I should have guessed that the plot in this book will drag a bit. And drag it did.

The mystery wasn't bad, to be honest. When the book began, it was quite captivating. Narrated by a police detective Catchpool, probably the worst detective I have ever read about, Catchpool made me miss Hastings a lot. This case happens when Poirot and Catchpool are staying in the same establishment and one day there are three murders in the same hotel. The very same day, Poirot has a very odd experience with a terrified lady who rushes into the cafe he was present in.

Interesting? Yes it was. But where the story failed was the narration. It was too long and the climax too made-up. Christie remains the queen of crime and I really don't want to sound rude, but no one else should attempt writing Poirot stories.

Rating: **/5

[This was a personal read.]

Thursday, January 8, 2015

#BookReview: Thackeray Mansion by Sankar, Sandipan Deb

On the jacket:

In this sequel to Chowringhee, the third instalment in the life and tribulations of the naïve and innocent young Shanker, he is once again out of a job and without a roof on his head. After much difficulty he finds a job as a manager in a grand but crumbling building in the posh area of the city: Thackeray Mansion on Scudder Street. The narrator directs his keen eye and sympathetic ear to tell captivating stories of those who live in the homes within a home of Thackeray Mansion and those who work in it. The mysterious disappearance of Philip sahib's wife, the hilarious monologues of the feisty Poppy Biswas and the grouchy Baradaprasanna, the seductive Sulekha Sen who morphs into the respectable Seema Chatterjee and the love of Dorothy Watts for Rabindranath Tagore: stories nestle within stories and the result is an astonishing novel filled with joys and sorrows, laughter and tears, despair and hope.


The first time I saw one of Sankar's books was when I was about 16, and my father was bed-ridden, fighting cancer. Next to his bed, in the ground floor room of my grandfather's Calcutta house, was a huge book shelf. One row in it had a series of Sankar's books. Me being me, one day I was looking at the books in the shelf, when my mother said how much my father loved to read Sankar. Instant love. I knew I wanted to read this author, all of him.

Years later, in Bombay, I happened to pick up Chowringhee. I had seen the movie and remembered it scene by scene. I lapped up the book. Calcutta, for me was always about meeting the family during the school, the city I had heard about in numerous stories from my mother. Chowringhee brought a lot of those stories alive.

Originally published as Gharer Moddhe Ghar in Bengali, the last of the trilogy of which Chowringhee was the second part. In Thackeray Mansion, Shankar, our protagonist is jobless and no place to live in. Calcutta is a character here, as it is in Sankar's stories. She will invoke every emotion possible, within the reader.

Thackeray Mansion is yet another attempt by Shankar to survive, sustain and find his ground in the city of Calcutta. Sankar is a brilliant writer, and each of his books have been brilliantly translated. An unkind, restless, impatient, harsh metropolis - Calcutta and Shankar's journey through the city as well as life. 

Rating: *****/5

[A personal read.]

#BookReview : The Shrine of Death by Divya Kumar

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