Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#BookReview: Yes, My Accent Is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven't Told You by Kunal Nayyar

On the jacket:


Of all the charming misfits on television, there’s no doubt Raj from The Big Bang Theory — the sincere yet incurably geeky Indian-American astrophysicist — ranks among the misfittingest. Now, we meet the actor who is every bit as loveable as the character he plays on TV. In this revealing collection of essays written in his irreverent, hilarious, and self-deprecating voice, Kunal Nayyar traces his journey from a little boy in New Delhi who mistakes an awkward first kiss for a sacred commitment, gets nosebleeds chugging Coca-Cola to impress other students, and excels in the sport of badminton, to the confident, successful actor on the set of TV’s most-watched sitcom since Friends.  
Going behind the scenes of The Big Bang Theory and into his personal experiences, Kunal introduces readers to the people who helped him grow, such as his James Bond-loving, mustachioed father who taught him the most important lessons in life: Treat a beggar as you would a king. There are two sides to every story. A smile goes a long way. And, when in doubt, use a spreadsheet. Kunal also walks us through his college years in Portland, where he takes his first sips of alcohol and learns to let loose with his French, 6’8” gentle-giant roommate, works his first-ever job for the university’s housekeeping department cleaning toilets for minimum wage, and begins a series of romantic exploits that go just about as well as they would for Raj. (That is, until he meets and marries a former Miss India in an elaborate seven-day event that we get to experience in a chapter titled “My Big Fat Indian Wedding.”)  Full of heart, but never taking itself too seriously, this witty and often inspiring collection of underdog tales follows a young man as he traverses two continents in search of a dream, along the way transcending culture and language (and many, many embarrassing incidents) to somehow miraculously land the role of a lifetime.

Review:

Let there be no confusions. I watch TBBT for Penny and Raj. I don't think Sheldon is cute or anything, I think he needs medical assistance and that Raj deserves more screen space where he does a lot of talking (with girls). Well, that's what I want but that ain't happening. Nevertheless, with TBBT and Nayyar's recent marriage with Neha Kapur, this book came when my curiosity about him was at its peak. 
I have as much liking to people who have settled abroad and not let go of their Indian accents as I am averse to Indians who start rolling there Rs the moment the land on American soil. So the title of the book got full marks from me. Moving on the the content of the book, let me tell you there is nothing spectacular inside. But what I did find is, a book I could relate to in every page. Nayyar was born  in the early 80s and grew up in Delhi. There. There's nostalgia for all of us 80's kids, presented in a platter. 
I like how he says, "This is not a memoir. I’m not a president, or an astronaut, or a Kardashian. This is a collection of stories from my life." and that is what the books is. From his love for Winnie Cooper to actually getting to work (and kiss) with Danica McKellar to being the average middle class Delhi boy struggling with adolescence, to moving to the states and adapting to the mixed culture there, to meeting his wife and marrying her - Nayyar has taken pages off from his life and put them together for us to read and smile, remembering similar situations from our own lives and reminiscing about the past. 
If you are looking at reading about how people from other countries have made it in showbiz, you'll like this book too. From being a badminton champion to acting in one of television's most viewed series, the transition had been gradual and not exactly planned. But like with a lot of people, university happened in Kunal's life and unlike in India, here he could try his hands at other things apart from academics too. The collection is pretty eclectic, but it is witty without trying to hard to be funny all the time. All in all, a good read but don't pick it up if you want insider news on TBBT 'coz this is about Kunal, not Raj.

I wonder if Ishani has read this book ;)


Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Simon & Schuster. However, views expressed are my own and unbiased.]

Thursday, September 24, 2015

#BookReview: The Guardians of the Halahala (Vikramaditya, #1) by Shatrujeet Nath

On the jacket:


The deadly Halahala, the all-devouring poison churned from the depths of the White Lake by the devas and asuras, was swallowed by Shiva to save the universe from extinction. But was the Halahala truly destroyed? A small portion still remains – a weapon powerful enough to guarantee victory to whoever possesses it. And both asuras and devas, locked in battle for supremacy, will stop at nothing to claim it. As the forces of Devaloka and Patala, led by Indra and Shukracharya, plot to possess the Halahala, Shiva turns to mankind to guard it from their murderous clutches. It is now up to Samrat Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine to quell the supernatural hordes – and prevent the universe from tumbling into chaos! A sweeping tale of honour and courage in the face of infinite danger, greed and deceit, The Guardians of the Halahala is a fantastical journey into a time of myth and legend.

Review:

I finished reading the Guardians of Halahala few months ago but work being crazy at that point of time, I couldn't get around to review it. And then I read it again last month. I had accepted the chance to review this book for the sole reason that the author's debut novel was The Karachi Deception which I had loved to bits. While his debut novel was of the genre I enjoy reading, Guardians of Halahala belongs to the genres - mythology and fantasy - which I don't particularly enjoy. But when you've liked how an author writes, you expect only the best from him. Which explains why I took this book for review and why I've read the book twice. 

Ideally, you should stop reading this review and just go buy the book. But if you haven't done so yet, well, read on.

Having jumped from a thriller to fantasy, Shatrujeet Nath has done full justice to both the genres. I don't think I'll be wrong to say that the mark of a good author is how well he can write on different genres rather than stick to template writing. Back to the book, it is primarily about this poison Halahala which was produced during Samudramanthan. The procedure of Samudramanthan was done to produce amrit, and this poison was swallowed by Shiva to save the universe. A part of the poison remained and could have proved to be advantageous for whoever found it. King Vikramaditya and his Navaratnas were given the task of protecting this poison, by the Lord himself.

Did I say I am not a fan of mythology? Well, I get totally turned off by mythological stories where everyone has their own version and I don't even know which version is real! Guardians of Halahala does no such thing. The story line is kept on track, the characters a bit modernized and 'real'. It was exciting to read about Vikramaditya and his reign. Memories of Vikram & Betal from childhood had come flooding in, though that relationship wasn't really the focus in this story. 

The book is a part of a series and I know the second part is impatiently anticipated by a lot of readers, me included. I don't want to sound biased but if there are more such books, I'll be happily reading mythological fiction too!

Rating: ****.5/5

[This is an author request review. However, the views expressed are unbiased and my own.]

#BookReview: Milan by Simi K. Rao

On the jacket:


When a daughter turns marriageable age, what should a responsible father do?   Easy—wed her to the most suitable boy who comes knocking on their door. Jai Bharadwaj, Mili's father and owner of The Serenity Tea Estate in the idyllic Nilgiris would've probably liked to do the same, but being who he was, he had to ask her first.  What would Mili say?

Review:

Simi K Rao's Milan, as the title suggests, is a story about an Indian wedding. However, more than the story, it delves into the relationship between two people who have known each other in past and are bring brought together by marriage, in the present.
I cannot begin reviewing the story before addressing how gorgeous the cover of the book is. It could have been a wedding invitation card, for all one knows. In fact, I must admit that it was the cover which tempted me to read the story.
Milan is basically Mili's story. Since it is a wedding story too, let's say it is Mili and Ahan's story. Having known each other in childhood, they meet again as adults when their parents want them to get married each other. Mili is an independent girl who has big dreams for her future. But her parents want her to get married to Ahan whom they knew years ago. 
The plot had a lot of scope, to be honest. The author has written in detail about Mili and Ahan, their relationship, their coming to terms with the idea of marriage and slowly coming to accept it. However, the wedding bit could've been elaborated upon because well, us Indian love weddings and all the glamour that comes with it. 
While Mili's character was very well-defined, the others could have been better. the language used was simple with liberal usage of colloquial Indian English, yet with a smattering of words like satchel. It was an unedited copy, hence the standard of language needs to be ignored. However, if edited, the plot could've been tighter and the flow smoother. Milan was a good story, with a potential to be better. 

Rating: ***.5/5

[Reviewed for B00K R3VI3WS. The opinion expressed is unbiased]




Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pupil's President Dr APJ Kalam


“The best brains of the nation can be found in the last benches of the classroom” ~ Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

The first time I heard about Dr Kalam was from my father when Prithvi missile was first being tested. He was one of the people in charge of making the special aluminum alloys for Agni and surface Missile, Prithvi and Dr Kalam was one of his life’s inspirations. I had wondered how my father can be so inspired by a man he had never met, never spoke to. I was too young to know the details but what remained with me was how many nice things my father had to say about Dr Kalam. Years later, when Dr Kalam became our President, my father wasn't there to see it happen but I knew he'd have been happy. Being an engineer and a scientist himself, he always believed that India needs to be lead by a learned and sorted person, which Dr Kalam was no doubt!
I have not read Wings of Fire, and adamantly so. I really don't know why, but I still haven't. What I have read is My Journey, a couple of years ago. I was reading another book when this one came by mail. I put that one aside and started reading this, on instinct. And in the last two years, I have read it close to ten times. It has become my go-to book for inspiration. When the world seems to slow down, nothing seems to happen my way, or when things are moving too fast for me, when I feel I am not being humble enough or when I need inspiration - it really doesn't matter what the reasons is, this thin book has a permanent place on my bedside table. Yes, I read it that frequently. Truly a teacher, Dr Kalam was an educator even through his books.
When he was just eight years of age, he was observant enough to notice that money was tight and his mother wasn't eating enough just so that the rest of the family did. Not only did he notice that, he took upon himself to should some of the responsibilities; he became a newspaper delivery boy. Not just him, when you read about the rest of his family, you realise how great they had all been in their own ways which had contributed in shaping Dr Kalam's personality the way it was.
Last year I read his book, Governance for Growth in India. And guess when I read it? In the week which follows the change of government in India. Ironic, I know.
Earlier this year when Dr Kalam died, the nation almost came to a standstill. I doubt it had much to do with his position as the ex-President of the nation and more to do with the educator that he was. Even in his last moments, he was interacting with students. His travels, his meetings and his speeches were mostly centered on education, inspiration and growth. He taught an entire generation to dream big, work hard and aim for the stars even if the stars are far from being visible when you start to dream.

Recently, a collection of memoirs on Abdul Kalam entitled 'Pupils' President' edited by Satyam Roychowdhury was launched in Kolkata by Sourav Ganguly. You can order the book here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

#BookReview & #Giveaway: The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz


#BookReview: The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium Trilogy #4) by David Lagercrantz, George Goulding

On the jacket:


The girl with the dragon tattoo is back: Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist return in a continuation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium series.  Written by Swedish novelist and journalist David Lagercrantz, this much anticipated continuation to one of the best-loved crime series of the last decade will be published in Sweden as Det som inte dödar oss (What Doesn't Kill You).

Review:

Stieg Larsson's The Millenium Series had taken the literary world by storm. I doubt any one who read has not read the series. Readers had quite cozied up to the idea of reading more of Salander and Blomkvist when Larson died unexpectedly. Taking the legacy of the Larson magic ahead, Swedish author David Lagercrantz has written The Girl In the Spider's Web.

Firstly, don't read the book with any expectations. When the original author is not writing the book, however good the other author is, there will be differences. However, Lagercrantz comes quite close to achieving what was surely difficult.


A Swedish scientist has approached Blomkvist for protection and help, but he gets killed before he could tell everything to Blomkvist. What comes as a surprise to Blomkvist is that the scientist had contacted Salander too, though the latter had been avoiding him the last few months. The plot thickens and the two have to work together, again. While Lagercrantz's style of writing is pretty different from Larson's, the treatment given to the story is quite good. The beginning is a bit slow but do not worry. Just keep reading, the surprises begin soon enough. The book begins with an extremely interesting recount of a hand beating rhythmically on the bed of a strange bedroom. The reader is introduced to this scene and then pulled out of it, taken far away. A reasonably good read!


Here is a kick-ass giveaway for you! 




Hachette gives you the chance to win The Millenium Series and MORE! 



The guidelines are:



  • The giveaway prizes will be provided by Hachette India, subject to availability.
  • Hachette India is not responsible for prizes that are lost in the mail.
  • The giveaway will be in India ONLY. 
  • Any disputes arising from this contest are subject to jurisdiction in Delhi.
  • Winners will be determined by the management of Hachette India. The decision of the management will be final and no queries will be entertained in this regard.
  • The entries may be screened for defamatory content/language .Hachette India reserves the right for last minute cancellation and change in terms and conditions. 
  • Participants should be Indian residents.
  • The contest will start on 17th September, 2015 at midnight and end on 16th October, 2015 at midnight. No late entries will be accepted.
  • Spam entries or entries that are not valid will be immediately disqualified.
  •  There will be seven (7) winners chosen from the entire blog tour. Each winner will win a copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo , The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest , The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl in  the Spider's Web and one book from the titles listed below:


1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
2. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
3. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
4. Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
5. The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy
6. An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy
7. Rescue by Nicolas Sparks
8. Under the Dome by Stephen King
9. Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell
10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
11. The Elephant Catchers: Key Lessons for Breakthrough Growth by Subroto Bagchi
12. In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce
13. Living History by Hillary Clinton
14. To The Moon and Back by Jill Mansell
15. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
16. Theodore Boone,Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
17. One Day by David Nicholls
18. The Devotion Of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
19. Between The Lines by Jodi Picoult, Samantha van Leer and Yvonne Gilbert
20. The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R.Carey

  • Each winner will get a total of five books, subject to availability.
  • All entries that are only entered in the Rafflecopter widget will be valid.
  • Number of entries for each task has been provided in the Rafflecopter widget. Every person who enters the giveaway needs to do at least one task that is listed above for their entry to be valid.
  • Winner has 48 hrs to respond to intimation by Hachette India before another winner is chosen.
  • Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are in no way associated with this giveaway.

#BookReview: The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium Trilogy #4) by David Lagercrantz, George Goulding

On the jacket:


The girl with the dragon tattoo is back: Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist return in a continuation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium series.  Written by Swedish novelist and journalist David Lagercrantz, this much anticipated continuation to one of the best-loved crime series of the last decade will be published in Sweden as Det som inte dödar oss (What Doesn't Kill You).

Review:

Stieg Larsson's The Millenium Series had taken the literary world by storm. I doubt any one who read has not read the series. Readers had quite cozied up to the idea of reading more of Salander and Blomkvist when Larson died unexpectedly. Taking the legacy of the Larson magic ahead, Swedish author David Lagercrantz has writtern The Girl In the Spider's Web.

Firstly, don't read the book with any expectations. When the original author is not writing the book, however good the other author is, there will be differences. However, Lagercrantz comes quite close to achieving what was surely difficult.


A Swedish scientist has approached Blomkvist for protection and help, but he gets killed before he could tell everything to Blomkvist. What comes as a surprise to Blomkvist is that the scientist had contacted Salander too, though the latter had been avoiding him the last few months. The plot thickens and the two have to work together, again. While Lagercrantz's style of writing is pretty different from Larson's, the treatment given to the story is quite good. The beginning is a bit slow but do not worry. Just keep reading, the surprises begin soon enough. The book begins with an extremely interetsing recount of a hand beating rhythmically on the bed of a strange bedroom. The reader is introduced to this scene and then pulled out of it, taken far away. A reasonably good read!

#BookReview: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

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