Tuesday, August 30, 2016

#BookReview: Faster, Smarter, Higher: Managing Your Career by Utkarsh Rai

On the jacket:

‘Utkarsh Rai’s book is a commendable effort that presents a holistic view of career management. A good read, especially for professionals in the early to mid-stages of their careers.’ —N.R. Narayana Murthy  Hard work is necessary for a job, but not sufficient for career growth. Given that workplace dynamics are ever-changing, one needs to anticipate and prepare for the impending twists and turns in one’s career. Lack of understanding of managing key relationships can lead to frustration in one’s career. Being in a hurry to rise, people often ignore to hone this skill, focusing too much on their subject matter expertise. Faster, Smarter, Higher provides clever and critical tips on how to manage various key relationships at work.


Having quit the corporate world seven years ago, this book was for me an enjoyable read. Had it landed in my hands seven years ago, it might have proven to be a helpful guidebook on how to survive there. This is like a go-to book for every corporate employee. No one can deny that practically every employee of the corporate world lives under a lot of pressure, irrespective of the designation they are in. The type of pressure, challenges and struggles do differ, but the fact that life is stressful, exists. 
Faster, Smarter, Higher is not only a book that will guide you in how to survive and rise in the corporate world, but also has valuable advice and tips from industry leaders. The book addresses very basic issues like how we deal with our goals and dreams, to more specific topics like people management - boss, colleagues, juniors, etc.

Peppered with relevant quotes by 51 business leaders at relevant points of the book, this makes for a more interesting read.

Rating: ****/5

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#BookReview: What Belongs To You by Garth Greenwell

On the jacket:

On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he’s forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko’s own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and want.

What Belongs to You is a stunning debut novel of desire and its consequences. With lyric intensity and startling eroticism, Garth Greenwell has created an indelible story about the ways in which our pasts and cultures, our scars and shames can shape who we are and determine how we love. 


I'll be honest, I haven't read a lot of LGBT literature. When the prospect of reading What Belongs To You came, along with high reccomendations, I had to pick it up.  

Has it ever happened to you that you've read a work of fiction but it seems very real? As if you have lived that? a lot of times, yes. When I was reading What Belongs To You, the first thing that kept me glued to it was how real the 'story' is. You know deep within that this could be anybody's story, or segments from lives of different people. Our protagonist, or the narrator is unnamed. The story begins with his encounter with the very charismatic and irresistable Mitko. They met at a public washroom and soon they were in an intimate relationship. I will be honest, I didn't fall in love with the story from the first page. The plot grew on me as I turned the pages - the credit of which goes hands down to the style of writing and storytelling. 

There are so many facets to the story that one might think they will get lost, but that doesn't happen. Mitko's life - how and why he starts to use his body to survive, and then the narrator and his sexual obsession with Mitko. The story is set in Bulgaria where our narrator, who is an American buying sexual flavours from Mitko, while what he really wants is love.
There are subtle references to the way the characters are developed which made me put the book aside from time to time, and just imagine them. Like how the narrator was practically desperate and needy for Mitko, yet took quite a satisfaction in giving money to the homeless Russian when he needed it. It gave him a feeling of surperiority and paved the consensus that they were not equal. Made sense, for they were in a society where a homosexual relationship should not be made public.

Rating: ****/5


Monday, August 8, 2016

#BookReview: What Might Have Been by Lynn Steward

On the blurb

As a fashion buyer at one of New York’s most glamorous department stores, Dana McGarry is a tastemaker, her keen instinct for fashion trends and innovative ideas coupled with a razor sharp business sense. But like the elegant and conservative store that employs her, Dana is caught between two eras—between being liked and standing her ground, between playing by the rules and being a maverick. Dana is sensitive and beautiful, but what you see is not what you get.

Behind the cool and attractive facade, Dana is both driven by her need to control yet impeded by her expectation of perfectionism. As she competes to replace women at the top of their game, she is challenged by jealous colleagues. And when a wealthy love interest wants to open doors and support her ambition, she embraces Coco Chanel’s mantra of “never wanting to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” As the women’s movement paves the way, Dana finds a path to the career she wants at the expense of happiness that was not meant to be.

Steward captures the nuances of 70s life in New York City and provides the perfect backdrop for an independent woman determined to make her mark. What Might Have Been is a story that transcends any period.


What Might Have Been by Lynn Steward is the second book of the Dana McGarry series. As the blurb suggests, Dana, our protagonist is a fashion buyer in the city of New York. And as the cover of the book suggests, this is a very warm and feel good story. 
Dana has had a very turbulent life of late, owing to her husband's infidelity and their divorce. That shouldn't make you believe that she is sad in life. Her career is going great and she has a nice personal life too. However, life as it is, it comes with its own twists and turns. 
Set in the 70s and with New York as the backdrop, the book grabs your attention right from the cover. I had finished reading it in one afternoon, that should explain how nicely it has been written. The book throws a sneak peak into the fashion worls from that time, as well as Dana's personal life and its upheavals. Interestingly, despite being part of a series, the book works well as a stand alone as well. I myself haven't read the first book and didn;t at any point of time, feel that I don't know the story in some way.  

It is lovely to see a career woman of the 70s, crumble and then stand up, bloom and become herself all over again. 
Rating: ****/5


Lynn Steward, a veteran of the New York fashion industry and a buyer on the team that started the women’s department at Brooks Brothers, created the Dana McGarry series, set at a transformational time in the 1970s world of fashion and in the lives of multigenerational women.

What Might Have Been is the second volume in the series. A Very Good Life, Steward’s debut novel, was published in March 2014.




Twitter: @LynnStewardNY
Buy the book here:

Saturday, August 6, 2016

#ProductReview: Pee Safe - Toilet Seat Sanitizer

It so happened that over the last few week, I've had prolonged discussions with different sets of friends, in person and in whataspp groups about the problems we women face with public toilets in India (even abroad, though not as much). This is not a topic much addressed however, of late the Indian government as well as UNICEF are creating a lot of awareness about the need of proper toilets and how important hygiene is.
However, a public place is a public place. Germs are bound to be present, even if the toilet seat is visibly clean. Door knobs, taps, handles - anything which has public access, will have germs. For me, this is a concern even when I am visiting someone else's home because everyone's cleanliness routine differs. 
A doctor friend suggested buying small, empty sprat cans and filling them with dettol idea. Not a bad idea, except that dettol smells. Which means we will smell too. Right when I was quite into all this discussion, and we were looking for manageable solutions - this arrive from Pee Safe - Toilet Seat Sanitizer. 

Pee Safe - Toilet Seat Sanitizer and Wet Wipes
In the package were spray cans of Pee Safe - Toilet Seat Sanitizer of three different sizes, to be used as per requirement. Also in it was a small pocket size spray, along with two packets of wet-wipes. Wo! My first reaction was - What a timing! 

Indeed! The first thing I checked, to be honest, was it's price. Because if this product works, I'd want as many women as possible to use it. The 10 ml pocket spray is for Rs 36, 40 ml bottle is priced at Rs 99, 75 ml at Rs 150, and the wet wipes are fr Rs 60 per packet. Not bad, not bad at all. At least in urban India, women would be benefited, I believe.

This is what Pee Safe claims to do! (c) PeeSafe

So, how is this used and where all can it be used. To begin with, on toilet seats. The brand has the following claims about the product:
- It kills bacteria.
- No harsh chemicals used; it also smells good.
- It can be used on toilet seats, door knobs, handles, etc.
- It is travel friendly.
- It is quick to dry.
- It helps prevent UTI, diarrhoea, and gastroenteritis.
After using the products for two weeks, I must say, I am impressed. Public toilets which do smell foul many times, now smell wonderful the moment this is sprayed - on toilet seat, door knobs or taps/handles. To use it, shake the can - spray on the area - wait for 5 seconds - use! As simple as that!

PeeSafe would be particuarly useful when travelling, at work or practically everytime when not at home. Buy the products from SafetyKart.

Friday, August 5, 2016

#AuthorInterview: Harleen Vij

Author Harleen Vij's debut novel The Abstruse is all set to be launched in the end of August, 2016. The blurb of the story seems very interesting and curious. Curious enough for me to want to discuss the book with her. Here are snippets of my conversation with author Harleen Vij:

Blurb of The Abstruse:

A college girl has the power to predict cricket matches. But her lover thinks otherwise- she has the power to see glimpses of future and he is right. Things take a turn in their relationship when they realize this. Their trust and love, which were once spontaneous, become carefully thought our choices. And then, she has a vision. A vision to do with her brutal death and her lover. Should she believe in her vision or her most trusted lover? Should she ignore the premonitions or plan escape?

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Tell our readers something about The Abstruse.

The Abstruse is about a carefree 23-year-old-girl, Aradhita. She is passionate about cricket unlike other girls around her. She begins her journey by predicting an unimaginable 400+ run chase for Proteas against the Kangaroos. The prediction of this match makes her a favorite amongst her friends who indulged in betting. Gradually, her predictions become freakingly accurate. Her best pal, Aarav, makes her realize that there's more to what meets the eye. She is clairvoyant and stays elusive about it. The Abstruse is also a journey of Aradhita and Aarav whose relationship sees the dark and light in love while dealing with her clairvoyance.

How did you settle on this title for your debut book? 

Abstruse means something beyond the known or unfathomable. Aradhita is dealing with something which is beyond her understanding. The Unknown was the preferred title but it was taken. So, I went ahead with The Abstruse.

Tell us something about author Harleen Vij.

The most difficult thing is to put words to describe yourself. Yes, even writers are at loss of words at times. The author in me is someone I'm myself trying to know. She's completely opposite to what I am. She is serious, observant and an introvert. Sometimes I feel like dealing with a split personality disorder but then, I feel, every author has two personalities. I am more of a carefree and calm person but the author in me is anxious and curious.

Who are your favourite authors?

Khushwant Singh, Amrita Pritam and Jhumpa Lahiri amongst the Indians and Haruki Murakami, Khaled Hosseini and Julian Barnes.

What next? Are you planning on a new book?

Well, of course. I am working on a couple of story ideas.

How was this journey, from conception of a story to being a published author?

Ah! Today, I would say that it's been a beautiful journey. I have seen the worst of times and the best times too. I have learnt, unlearnt and evolved as a person. Not only as a person but as a writer as well. My writing and story-telling skills have evolved drastically. It took me five years to get published and in these five years, I've seen life from many perspectives. I have seen the best and worst in people. I was a novice, both as a person and as a writer, when I started and today I feel glad about the time I took to begin my journey.

               Buy The Abstruse here:

The Conspiracy at Meru (Vikramaditya Veergatha # 2)


Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine have fought valiantly to repel the rampaging hordes from Devaloka and Patala – but Avanti has been brought to its knees. Ujjayini lies battered its citizens are scared and morale is badly shaken. Meanwhile, the barbaric Hunas and Sakas are gathering on the horizon and cracks are emerging between the allied kingdoms of Sindhuvarta.

The only silver lining is that the deadly Halahala is safe. For now. Bent on vengeance, Indra is already scheming to destroy Vikramaditya, while Shukracharya has a plan that can spell the doom for the Guardians of the Halahala. How long can the human army hold out against the ferocity and cunning of the devas and asuras? And will Vikramaditya’s love for his queen come in the way of his promise to Shiva?

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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. 

                                           Goodreads * Amazon

About the Author

Door-to- door salesman, copywriter, business journalist & assistant editor at The Economic Times; Shatrujeet Nath was all this before he took to writing fiction full-time. He debuted with The Karachi Deception in 2013, followed by The Guardians of the Halahala and The Conspiracy at Meru, the first two books in the Vikramaditya Veergatha series. At present, he is writing volume three of the series. Shatrujeet lives in Mumbai, but spends much of his time in the fantasy worlds of his stories.

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Also by the Author:

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#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...