September 28, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Ineligibile Bachelors' by Ruchita Misra


Some weeks back I posted a comment on the fanpage of the book after reading a sample chapter that the author sent me. In the comment, I proclaimed that Kasturi Shukla, the protagonist of Ruchita Misra's 'The Ineligible Bachelors' is the desi Bridgette Jones and I could not wait to read the book. So I received this book some four days back and immediately took it in my hand, discarding other small things like work and taking a bath. The book as people believe is not about arranged marriages though the plot revolves around that. The story is about love, friendship, hurt, betrayal and yes, marriage too. The cover of the book, once you have read the story, starts making so much sense and I applaud the designer for the creative insight.

Written in the form of a diary in the first person, the book talks about Kasturi Shukla, a 24 year old pretty middle-class girl from one of India's finest B-schools. Happy-go-lucky Kasturi has some really grave problems of her own, the topmost of which include her mother, who is hellbent upon marrying her off as soon as possible. And she wouldn't take a NO from Kasturi on that matter. Kasturi's doctor father has no say in the matter and chooses to remain outside doing field trips than watch mother-daughter fighting it out at home. So after every emotional drama with the sad tunes playing only in Kasturi's head, her mother puts a matrimonial ad in the paper and fxes up appointments for her daughter not only with the beautician but also with some very able candidates. These candidates come from various backgrounds but all have onething in common, they are filthy rich and well-educated and mostly stupid. She soon gets a job offer in Delhi where she is made to work on powerpoint presentations on a daily basis. Poor Kasturi keeps landing herself at arranged dates and keeps getting horrified after seeing the guys that turn up.

 Life seems to settle down a bit once Kasturi shifts to Delhi for work. There she meets new friends, Ananya, a sworn tom-boy who would soon swoon to Pitaji (the first guy Kasturi's mother short-listed for her) and Varun, a guy with a soft-heart and one who loves office gossip. And of course, then in walks Rajeev Malhotra (couldn't help picturing Saif Ali Khan from RHTDM here!) as her boss and Kasturi becomes a puppet to his charms. He could just say 'Kasturi, disappear!' and Kasturi would gladly wipe away herself from the face of the planet. Soon they are a couple and Kasturi can't believe her luck that her handsome boss actually chose her! In the middle of all this, Kasturi has to keep meeting guys that her mother keeps short-listing for fear of emotional blackmail that her mother often resorts to and this mostly results in hilarious outcomes that keep the reader rolling in the seat. And during one such arranged meet, she meets Dr. Purva, a shy and simple guy who is very different from the guys she has met so far. Hiding his emotions behind a hazy past, Dr. Purva emerges to be that caring friend who always ends up making life easier for Kasturi whenever she is in need. And towards the end that is a little predictable, Kasturi finds herself in an unexpected mess and she should make a decision that could define her life.

Imagine a photographer asking you to give 'the look' for photographing you while your mother is standing there, dreaming about sending that photograph to several prospective grooms. Imagine your mother continuously harping on what she has done for you and why you should obey her. Imagine ending up at a date where all that the guy is doing is staring at your zit covered face. The book is covered with relatable situations like this and makes an interesting walk-through. The book is breezy and by that I mean literally, it blows in your face and does everything that a good book should. It makes you laugh with genuine humour with its wonderfully crafted situations and one-liners. It makes you a little angry on parents, though obsessive and doting, who consider girls to be a burden once they are done with their education and emotionally blackmail them with what all they have done for them, so they should marry the guy of their choice. Bullshit! It makes you cry due to the hurt and heart-break. It makes you smile with real-life relationships that define true friendship and love and makes you feel content on having savoured the flavours of life. Somewhere it can also work as a dating guide for guys who are clueless on impressing girls. The characters are true to life and introduced well enough without saying too much or too little. 

The book, though I am tempted to call it chic-lit because it fits the exact definition of that genre, is something much more and should be read by everyone who has experienced life in the way I just explained. And it should be especially read by mothers of single daughters who cannot dream of anything else in life except for getting their daughter married to the first decent guy they can lay their hands on. I just hope this book teaches mothers a thing or two about their children's expectations from life. The book is a one-sit read and does not bore the reader at all. Misra emerges to be a very hands-on, witty and creative writer and this book makes for a perfect debut. No wonder Bollywood is already lapping it up. Just makes me wonder what an interesting film this would make. A must-read for this season!

Get it from StackurRack or Uread.

  

P.S.: Couldn't help posting this hilarious article from Ruchita Misra on spotting (in)eligible bachelors.

September 25, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Along the Way' by TGC Prasad

  
TGC Prasad's Along the Way is a roller-coaster ride of an ordinary engineer's life, written in a humorous manner, almost making it seem like the author is speaking to the reader rather than making him swallow aimless words. 

Venkata Subramaniam Adisankara Tanikaburla aka VSAT is your typical neighbourhood guy with some sweet imperfections. He is friends with Raj and Adi since their engineering college (NIT Calicut) days where they have struggled and survived together in the bottom pile. Raj Malhotra is a rich Punjabi lad with a fascination for some seriously good female assets and Aditya, who like VSAT is from Andhra . VSAT's boring life changes when he meets Anjali, daughter of a Colonel from Coorg, in his college and manages to impress her. Finally the two fall in love with an uncertain future keeping in mind the cultural differences and the hot-headed colonel.

An eventually all of them graduate and get placed in the same software company, TCS which is supposed to look after them and care for them and offer them 'life-long employment' as per VSAT's traditional father. It is here that the author really spins the tale by taking us into the lives of software engineers, their little joys, the work pressure, their expectations and dreams in an uncertain world. The jargon sometimes is heavy in some chapters but then one can't talk of engineers without the technical details. The tiff with the HR department and their bosses is interesting and it is good to see the mess they put themselves in after naming their boss, Mani as Hitler and rechristening their HR head, Amit as Pappu on his face. Their boss of course is of the 'boss is always right' types and does not go easy on them in the beginning. VSAT's US-obsessed parents finally get to see their son's development when he is sent to the US on a work-visa, and that chapter actually shows how software companies start changing their behaviour towards employees overtime, not wanting to lose them to competition.

Many incidents are quite hilarious, especially when Raj ends up calling 911 while meaning to call his home when they are in America for work. And somewhere around that the cultural clash between the east and the west also is portrayed in a witty manner by the author. VSAT's journey of impressing his trivia loving father-in-law by buttering him with wine bottles and trivia sessions even when he has no love for trivia, and winning over his mother-in-law by making Shah Rukh Khan wish him on her birthday, is surely interesting. Yeah, SRK too makes a telephonic appearance in this book. So do many little things in life that we experience and makes me hold true to my word, that the story has something for everyone. Towards the end the book catches pace and shows that the characters are not a part of the rat race but they are willing to prove themselves as capable as any IITian or any other performer in the organisation and in life. The writing is crisp and smooth and laced with adequate humour. 

The book is laced with quotes from Mario Puzo's 'The Godfather' and VSAT recollects them whenever he happens to find himself in a similar situation. The trivia questions that keep flowing out of the blue sometimes can be a turn-off for some. Apart from that, the book is wonderfully written and can be a ready-made script for Bollywood. Laced with wit and humour, the story will definitely find many takers. This book is one of the better releases this year and is sure to be taken notice of by the literary crowd. I will again repeat that it has something in it for everyone- the complete family entertainer kinds!

Get it from StackurRack or Infibeam

Note: TGC Prasad is the author of the best-selling motivational management book titled 'Unusual People do things differently.'


 

September 24, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Death Collector' by Justin Richards


 "Four days after his own funeral, Albert Wilkes came home for tea." 
Thus begins Justin Richards young adult sci-fi/ fantasy novel of a hidden, almost fantasy-like world in London. The beginning of the novel surely had me hooked. One of the best opening lines I have come across for sure and trust me, I'm not talking even about a couple of thousand but more, much more. But did the book continue to keep me hooked? Read on to know.
 The story has a Frankenstein flavour to it. The title alludes to the antagonist of the tale, Mr. Lorrimore, an insane rich industrialist and his morbid fascination for unique things that could make him rule the world. He even has a pet dino, kind of a T-rex, made of bone and steel, that is, half dino and half machine. He is behind a set of diaries that hold the clue to his ambition and in a futile attempt to get them from the museum, his goons end up burning the diaries and only a few survive with a small bit of parchment form the last diary, supposedly the most important. The parchment is kept by a museum employee, George Archer as he sees his friend being murdered by the goons. 

All of that is fine until, Lorrimore applies the concept to dead humans so that he might have some extra dimwits, who are ten times more powerful than normal humans, to help in his factories. Graves are dug and a corpse is found with human bones replaced by dinosaur bones. To investigate this, the senior most person of the department of unidentified artifacts, Sir William Prothroe of the British museum is called in. And he is not alone, along with him are three youngsters, George Archer; who works in the clockwork department of the museum. Elizabeth Oldfield; an aspiring theatrical actress and the daughter of a pastor and Eddie Hopkins; a teenage thief who has stolen from both.

 The novel as I said, starts on an amazingly high note with a recently dead man, Albert Wilkes (plays an important role in the novel as he was the holder of the diaries that contain the route to rule the world) walking inside his home and shocking his widow. It surely had me hooked but soon, the story started to falter and fall in places. I don't blame the author's structuring for it but the story did not have much in itself to keep me engrossed all the way. The author does not waste time describing things and in that way, the story is pacy enough. The characters are nothing to be proud of but I liked the way the author displays the brewing romance between George and Elizabeth, ever so slightly that you wonder what it was supposed to mean. Lorrimore as a villain does not create an impact at all, though the automation technique he employs in his half-alive machines surely manages to catch your fancy. And mostly the suspense can be foretold but I believe that is fine as it is an upper-elementary young adult novel. Read this if you are missing Doctor Who or want to relive Frankenstein in parts and pieces. I would go with a 3/5 for this one. I got this at a bargain sale recently, so I'm not complaining about value for money but...

Get it from Infibeam.

 

September 18, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Of Dreams' by Aditi Talwar Sodhi


'Of dreams' is a story about three college friends; Amrita, Aarti and Payal. And that itself is a welcome change from the kind of stories that deal with three guys and a love affair gone wrong. The three girls have lost something in life and yet dare to dream big. This book tries to be realistic and aspirational at the same time and in a rare achievement, succeeds in doing so. Books like these are not fiction but the truth about life, dealing with things that happen everyday around us, that can happen to people we know and people like you and me.

So we have Amrita who is the rich girl falling for Suresh, the poor guy but they can't end up together as Amrita's Punjabi parents are against their relationship. So Amrita gets married into a rich Punjabi household and dreams of a future for her two daughters. But what future do they hold when she finally gives birth to a son, the heir of their family? Amrita realises that human nature is undependable, howsoever sure we might be of ourselves.

Then there is the ambitious Payal, who too has a huge crush on Suresh from college but as life moves on and she steps into the corporate world, she realises there are easy ways to climb the ladder and accelerate your growth. But she does not know that this growth would come at an expense that would shred her name and turn her into an overnight scandalous object. It is a journey for readers to discover Payal changing and learning to love, trust and live once again.

Aarti, their friend from college always was a simple girl facing the challenges of life augmented by her poverty. She learns to sacrifice for everyone around her, from family to her love. And it is this sacrifice that makes this character so endearing. Her entrepreneurial skills and hardwork don't go waste in the long run and it is a seriously happy moment to see her growth.

In the words of the author, "Amrita repeatedly allows herself to be manipulated but consequentially becomes the biggest manipulator, Aarti keeps looking back when she should ideally be forging ahead and Payal tries desperately to erase her past but her future seems to be fading faster." The surprise factor however comes from a character named Shaheen who brings these friends together after almost two decades and there in lies the crux of the story. Aditi Talwar cleverly joins all the threads together towards the end, doing something pleasingly unexpected.

The book portrays the struggle and hardships of life from different points of view. Success never comes easy to those who dare to dream big. The characters are simple and well-sketched and I liked the flow of the story. The book tells us that many times life deals us cards that we never expected to play with. All in all a quick read that deals with a novel subject!

Get it from StackurRack or Infibeam.


 

September 6, 2011

Invitation to the NCR launch of Truly Madly Deeply

 Dear friends,

                           Join us for the NCR launch of my novel 'Truly Madly Deeply' at Reliance Timeout, Ambience Mall in Gurgaon from 6:30 PM onwards. 

The panel comprising of director Anwar Jamal, Bollywood actor Anuj Sawney and the queen of Indian chic-lit, Anuja Chauhan will be in discussion with ME on love, writing, marketing and all that in between. A Q&A session with the audience will be held following the discussion.

And that's not all ten lucky participants get a chance to win copies of the novel in an interactive contest to be held during the event. No, it's not over yet. Snacks and refreshments will be served to the audience. So go ahead, invite your Delhi friends and join us for the launch and also stand a chance to win free copies of the book. So be there. Don't miss it!





You can RSVP on Facebook or don't bother, just walk in ;)


 

August 21, 2011

Now let us open a new TAB


With all the travelling I do, I decided now was the time to get my hands on a portable working device. Smart phones however are just phones at the end of the day and I needed a suitable replacement for my heavy duty lappie, so I thought why not go for either a tablet or a netbook.

The latter didn't really fascinate me much as somehow I still needed to place it down. I wanted something that would give me the joy of holding it up in the air, for all to see. And so the tablet was the better option. With so many alternatives in the market, I was bamboozled by the technicalities of it all and decided to consult an engineer friend who pointed out the Samsung range of tablets.


Being one of the earliest companies to set the tablet revolution in India, Samsung recently launched their new tablet 'Galaxy Tab 750.' Who says first love is just reserved for us mortals? It very well applies to all the things around us and so it was that the moment I caught sight of the Galaxy Tab 750 that I was fascinated by the sheer beauty of it. Now this is going to grab eyeballs, I thought!
But of what use are looks if it can't give you performance? No, I didn't want to make a dumb blonde joke on myself. The 1280x800 WXGA TFT LCD makes all the colors of the rainbow come alive and freshen your senses.Weighing just a little over half a kilogram, this baby has a very appealing 10.1" wide screen to blow your senses and the Samsung Touchwiz UX interface makes it ooze with all that sex-appeal. Surely one object that you would love touching again and again ;)


Packed with 1GB DDR2 RAM and running on the Android Honeycomb OS (open source unlike Apple) with a 1Ghz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra-2 processor, this machine combines performance and play in a pleasant experience and provides easy multi-tasking and split view experience. The built-in 7000 mAh battery can give you up to 9 hours of continuous video playback (enough to watch three Bollywood movies back to back) and up to 72 hours of music (don't forget to take breaks in between). The Tab 750 supports Full HD video playback(1080p @ 30fps). The surround sound experience of the audio output makes it all the more exciting, especially while savoring the mentioned activities. The 3 MP auto-focus back camera comes with a LED flash and can give you HD video recording (720p). The 2 MP camera in front would come handy while chatting with your long distance friends, colleagues and families and make them seem like they are sitting right opposite to you.
The Samsung Hub provides access to the user to Social Hub (e-mail, IM and social networking sites), Music Hub (11 million tracks) and Reader Hub (over 2.3 million e-books, so who needs that Kindle now?) The Tab 750 comes packed with Google mobile services and access to android applications. The navigation GPS is an exciting treat for people on the go as it uses the latest Google maps service. And of course, for all you people who love to work on Office like we writers do, this machine comes loaded with the latest Polaris office for creating and editing documents, excel sheets and presentations with enhanced Clipboard functionality.  Seriously can't wait to write my next book now!

The rich Android browser makes web browsing a rich and friendly experience with the Adobe Flash player support. The drag and drop interface is really what makes the machine such an enriching experience. Social networking is taken to an all new level on this machine with the large 10.1" capacitive touchscreen (149 ppi) making your friends' pictures and videos come alive right in front of your noses. The 750 comes with HSPA +21(wow!), EDGE, GPRS and Wi-Fi and offers Bluetooth for seamless integration with other devices and for connectivity on the go. The 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack gives an incredible output and due to its standard size can be combined with most of the high performance 3.5" jack headphones available in the market today. And here comes the main plus point, being the thinnest and lightest large screen tablet available (with Samsung being the ace in cutting down the size and increasing performance in mobility devices, what more can you expect?) the Tab 750 offers you the experience of Live Panel so that updates of your choice are continuously refreshed on the home screen itself. With add-ons like the Keyboard case and the Dock station, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 750 becomes a force to reckon with and enhances the way you interact with this baby.

So still looking for that laptop or that netbook? With so many features and such a power packed performance, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 750 definitely becomes one of the worthy contenders to rule the Indian Tablet market for a long time. This baby should be on your list when you go out there looking for a gadget, a companion!


With hugs and kisses to the Consumer,
The Young Marketer.

July 13, 2011

The Mumbai (suburban) book launch of 'Truly Madly Deeply'


Calling all ye Mumbai folks:  
So you stay in the suburbs? You missed the earlier event in town either due to the rains or the traffic or simply because your mother-in-law came over? Fret not! If you can't come to us then we surely can come to you. Due to popular demand, we are back with another event of the novel, this time in the suburbs and this one will be on a grand scale. So don't miss this opportunity.

And join us for the Mumbai launch of 'Truly Madly Deeply' at Landmark, Inifnity Mall, Andheri (West) on the 29th of July from 6:30 PM onwards. The panel will comprise of eminent personalities like Sahitya Akademi award winner and director Mahesh Dattani, ad-guru Prahlad Kakar and ex-miss Afghanistan and miss Earth award winner, Vida Samadzai. Other prominent personalities are expected to grace the occasion.
 
We will be talking about the novel and its much acclaimed marketing campaign. Do feel free to join us for snacks and drinks after the event. And even more free to invite guests. Hope to see you there!


  

P.S.: Even if you are not from Mumbai, then feel free to invite your friends. The more, the merrier :)

June 22, 2011

Mumbai book launch of 'Truly Madly Deeply'

Dear All,
             I came back form Bangalore a few days back and since then the schedule has been too hectic for me. The Bangalore launch was a stupendous success and had a decent turnout of people and the city's literati. And now we're trying to replicate the same--if not more-- in my home town.
             
            We tried to have it on the 11th but the rain gods had a different plan and we had to postpone the event. Now we have the launch of my novel 'Truly Madly Deeply' in Mumbai on 24th June from 6:30 pm onwards at Oxford bookstores, Churchgate

             I will be in discussion with best-selling author Tuhin Sinha of 'That thing called Love' and 'Of Love and Politics' fame'.It promises to be a grand event and so far all arrangements have been taken care of. If you are in the city, do make it. Feel free to invite guests.
 
Here's the Facebook event link of the same
 

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=168339059896879

 
Thank you. Hope to see you.

 
With hugs and kisses to the readers, 
Faraaz :)

April 28, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Maneater' by Jack Warner

 It had been a long time since I read Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson going in the jungles of India and shooting rogue animals. Of special interest were their encounters with leopards and tigers, dreaded man-eaters who craved human blood in the dead of the night or stark daylight.

'Maneater' (also published as 'Shikar' in another edition) was lying on my shelves since a wrong time in the pile of books that I will perhaps never willingly read and the inspiration to read this came from an amazing documentary on Discovery some days back. This book starts with an amazing flashback of a man-eating tiger called slashfoot (called so because of his deformed pugmarks) in the Indian jungles, who is a daredevil and hunts humans at any time of the day. The chapter ends and a new one begins in present day Georgia, where an illegal party of animal organisers is transferring a caged royal Bengal tiger in a van. And ultimately when the van falls in a ditch, the driver realises the tiger has jumped out. A couple of days later the tiger makes his first prey, Lanelle Jackson, a woman who is out on delivery. The tiger now roams the dense forests of Appalachian mountains. Where tigers are unheard of, this mystery animal soon becomes a force to fear, almost Satan-like. With depleting herbivores like boars and deer, the tiger soon starts searching for easy prey in the form of careless human beings.

And then as the death tool rises and the media starts putting pressure, the sheriff of Harte country, Grady Brickhouse starts shaking in his pants. He tries everything with support from the governor and even some untalented gunmen and the military but to no avail. The tiger outsmarts them all and even managers to make prey of the very people who are out hunting it. And then comes old Jim Graham, who's been modeled on Corbet as a God-like hunter from India in his earlier days. Graham has retired and his health is failing and amidst doubts on his ability to hunt the man-eater, he does manage to trail the tiger and study it yet he does not seem to be making any progress when it comes to hunting it down. All this till Graham manages to find out about the bond between the tiger and a small boy named Roy, who lives on the outskirts of the forest with his mentally challenged mother. From hereon, the story gets interesting as Roy is befriended by both hunters, Graham and the tiger. The thing to be seen is that will Graham's last hunt be successful or will the tiger, who resembles slashfoot (whom Graham's father had hunted down or it was believed so!) will make him pay for his decision.The small boy is unsure whom he should support and aid because it means that one of his friends would die. The way his character has been handled has been a revelation.

Warner writes in a simple narrative, taking care to introduce even the victims and their motivation to be in that place where the tiger would soon walk on. The dialogue seems draggy at times between characters that actually don't matter to the story. Somehow it reminded be a bit of Benchley's 'JAWS' but Warner has his own unique style that works for the story. The concept is definitely great. We have read about man-eaters in India where a tiger or a leopard could easily wolf down over two hundred (official) individuals in its career as a man-eater but a tiger in America! Sounds fascinating. Couple with good research, Warner makes an impressive debut and the blurbs on the book justify the praise. A great beginning and a great ending, somehow tend to make you forget the draggy middle that puffs up the book to at least a hundred pages more. Overall, it definitely makes for an amazing adventure novel, definitely under-rated. I would go with a 4/5 for this strongly suspenseful novel.

Get it from Infibeam

 

April 24, 2011

Who inherited 'The Inheritance Cycle'?

 As usual, I was just browsing bargain deals online for books when I came across this on Flipkart on their pre-order page. For a second, I was surprised. I had almost given up hope like the millions of people worldwide who wanted to see the Inheritance series come to an end. The next couple of minutes, I excitedly read the blurb and went through the page completely. Then I sighed again after seeing the release date.

To date, the Inheritance cycle has sold more than 22 million copies worldwide and has garnered praise and criticism alike form many but the biggest slap on the series was issued  by fans themselves as they got tired waiting for Paolini to fulfill his promise of an early release of the fourth installment.

 Originally it was meant to be a trilogy when the author, Christopher Paolini came out with the first book, Eragon (in 2005) that talked about a small farm boy and his dragon, Saphira and their journey together in a fantasy land called AlagaĆ«sia. The series then saw Eragon, the dragon rider, fight his way out and emerge victorious in book two (Eldest, published in 2006) and the much hyped book three (Brisingr, published in late 2008) which I got on the very first day of the Indian release. They say the length of the third book grew and it had to be separated into two parts and many of those parts would  be integrated in the fourth.
With a first print run of 2.5 million copies, Paolini is finally making a come back to finish the story in the last installment of the inheritance cycle with 704 pages of promising fantasy on November 8, 2011. But at what cost?

A very young author, just after graduation penning down a worldwide best-seller. It's not what we see on a daily basis and yet to risk it and put your goodwill on the line is an act that is unpardonable.  Paolini takes almost four years to get the fourth one out, and that too when he is backed by a publishing contract. I doubt many would actually go back to the summary of the book to brush up the story until now in eager anticipation of the fourth book. And many perhaps won't even consider the fourth book, simply because they have had enough of the puerile author who could not shake his pen for his fans with the evident excuse of laziness, shrouding his creativity. Of course, it would take a great deal of marketing to convince people to give it a try but I guess the hype around the international release will take care of it. For the time being, Paolini has to put up his baby-like face and go on an apologizing spree and talk to his fans, answer their queries and convince them to finish reading the cycle. After all, that too is marketing!


 

April 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Trapped wings Open Sky' by Nisha Arppit


This is one of those stories that straight away get down to business. Sketching away tales of its secondary characters in the beginning, it introduces the protagonist, Preet somewhere in the early middle of the book. Preet, a small town girl with big dreams in her eyes, went gone against her family wishes and decided to obtain an MBA and then landed up a big, fat corporate job. This is the story of an average girl and her quest for discovering her true identity in life. Preet thinks she can manage everything on her own pretty well, that she's grown up and mature enough to do so.

 And then start life's challenges. With lecherous seniors, hard to meet targets,  a wavering love life and a boss that seems hell bent on finding excuses to humiliate her, Preet faces it all and surprisingly, stands tough. Both of her room mates have their own problems in life. One has a boyfriend who is cheating on her and the other can't seem to trust in relationships and ends up attempting suicide. And Preet like a true friend s there for both of them even though their behaviour towards her has been anything but friendly in the beginning.

 Aman, her colleague and crush from her workplace gives her mixed reactions to the fact that she adores him completely. Preet's helping nature, true friendship, trust in relationships, believe in love and a hope of a better future are aspects that are nicely portrayed in the story. The author delivers some deep messages and she does it without getting philosophical, in fact through little incidents in the protagonist's life and that forms the USP of this book. The characterisation is decent and the only major flaw is the editing in some areas, for example substituting 'ask/tell' for 'say'. The author has a wonderful expressive narrative, combining both, first person POV's and third person POV's. This is a book about life, as it is, complete with the little blessings and little challenges, we all face. Nothing fanciful, not even fiction perhaps as such things happen daily around us, in the society that we live.

A quick read, it tends to portray some amount of negativity and a little confusion in parts and pieces but overall, a promising book that might show us the way to live our 'taken for granted' lives. It does manage to bring a smile on your face as you turn over the last page. I would go with a 3/5 for this breezy read.

Get this novel from Flipkart.

 

April 10, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Legally, Lovingly Yours' by Abhishek Bose


I was quite skeptical about this book when the writer contacted me to review it. He being a first-time writer and quite young at that, I could see a bit of my old self in him and hence I obliged. Was I disappointed? Read on to know.
The book is about Abhishek Banerjee, a Bengali youth like the author himself, who lands up in one of the topmost law colleges of India, Animus in Dehradun. He is a simple, down to earth guy who believes in himself, is always there for his friends and is shy around his lady love, Lavanya Singhania, who does not even acknowledge him for the major part of the book.

Their love story stars with Abhishek bumping into Lavanya on the very first day of college and she in turn reprimanding him for not looking ahead while walking. The poor guy confesses his feelings to Anshul, the only guy he knows then from his school days but crafty Anshul uses that information to cut him out of Lavanya's life and push himself in as her boyfriend. Our hero is hurt but wins over the heroine through his over-used intellect and by winning numerous competitions and by being there for her when her boyfriend supposedly abandons her for a booze party with his friends. And finally how the two (Abhishek and Lavanya) end up together, forms the highlight of the book. Abhishek makes some great friends in his college and they mingle with each other in a group that goes by the name of DU (Diversity Unified).

The characters are real-life, easy to relate and many of us can find ourselves within the protagonist (though I doubt on the soft-heartedness). The protagonist feels endearing at times, the way he does things unselfishly without expecting anything in return. With a simple storyline, without much twists and turns, the author writes in a candid manner. Sometimes he uses words which are not at all necessary in the context and the method of going into flashback is a little flawed. But most of the times, he writes smoothly with smooth dialogue that wavers off a bit in the middle. What the author does well is give us a glimpse into the student life of law colleges which I believe is a first after the IIT-IIM motley in the stores. The struggle of studies, warm friendships and heightened excitement of various competitions are well laid out in the story. The book does not leave much to imagination right from the start and the simple plot is easily predictable. A little slow to take-off, the book does quite well to involve you in the end and is an easy read. Overall, it's a decent attempt by a first-timer author and I for one know he will go on to write better stuff in his own unique candid style.

Get it from Flipkart.


 

April 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Chanakya's chant' by Ashwin Sanghi

To say I was excited to read this novel, would be an understatement. As Ashwin Sanghi's earlier work, 'The Rozabal Line' ended up being in my top reads for 2010, I had higher expectations from this book. The story alternates with every chapter, one set in ancient India (around 340 BC or 2300 years back) and the other in modern India.And that's what the book sets out to do, merging the two Indias, to prove that Chankaya's thoughts are as prevalent today as they were in ancient times. The book as the name suggests is about the main character, Chanakya and his strategies to unify Bharat after the king of Magadha, Dhanananda murders Chanakya's father, the renowned teacher, Chanak. He dreams of a unified Bharat under the rule of his disciple, Chandragupta Maurya, whom history has shown to be a great king but he merely remains a pawn in the hands of Chanakya, his guru.

Fast forward to the modern day world and you have Pandit Gangasagar, who is supposedly reborn as Chanakya and one fine day comes across a mantra that if recited for a certain number of days, would give the person access to Chanakya's power. Gangasagar too has lost his father at an early age and then struggles in life to make it big in the world of politics and when he does, he too backs a young protege, Chandini Gupta, who goes on to become the PM of India as shown in the prologue. And the book is pretty much a route to Chanakya's and Gangasagar's aspirations. Both of them keep strategising all day with some wonderful intellect and set up some devious plans to reach their dreams. On one end, Chanakya does not have any qualms in using his childhood sweetheart to usurp the power of Magadha and on the other hand, Gangasagar does not give a hoot before killing the two men that Chandini loved. Lying, cheating, lust and deceit are only tools to aid their greater purpose. If you analyze the smooth cover, you get the drift of the story there and then.

Ashwin Sanghi pretty much uses his trademark style of narration, carefully introducing each and every nook and corner of the story, sometimes with too much technicality that an average reader would find difficult to grasp. Apart from the main characters of Chanakya and Pandit Gangasagar, the others are not so strongly sketched and the main ones for most of their part, keep devising strategies all the time, some which one fails to understand the purpose of. Combining business with politics and media with the dirty P, Ashwin Sanghi accurately describes the nexus between such operations. I would have loved to see other shades of Chanakya as intellect and strategy were already always associated with him. Ashwin Sanghi as usual has researched the subject well before writing and goes on to provide a long list of references towards the end, something not many writers do, even in historical fiction.

Some of the events are inspired from the real life and the author handles them craftily, taking lessons from real-life politics and scams and at times, even getting into the accounting aspects of it. Secondary characters form a major crux of the story. Though weakly portrayed, they end up being at the receiving end from both the main characters in the story and sometimes you end up thinking whether any protagonist can be so 'perfect'. The little flaw that brings them down comes only in the end and that too as a very minute aspect. Overall, I enjoyed the story but not as much as Ashwin Sanghi's debut novel 'The Rozabal Line.' A decent book with a some great research work lends this book a strong backbone. Read it for that and more. A 3.5/5 for Ashwin Sanghi's second novel.

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March 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Love was never mine' by Kunal Bhardwaj


Kunal Bhardwaj's debut novel 'Love was never mine' is an emotional story about Rahul (no, not the TMD kind), your simple 'guy-next-door' types and his unconditional love for Shreya, the beautiful girl from his office. The book starts on a promising note with an interesting prologue and as we turn the pages we see Rahul falling for Shreya when he sees her for the first time in their training program on their new job. As fate would have it, Rahul, who is too shy around girls and does not appreciate outer beauty (though he believes in love at first sight), is introduced to Shreya by his friend, Riya. And from then on the three along with Hari, Rahul's pornstruck friend and roommate have fun in office and outside its four walls.

Shreya starts asking for Rahul's help whenever she is in trouble and even though she has a boyfriend, Rahul never gives up on her. He believes in the universe and his love for Shreya. And the universe in turn does not disappoint him, some welcome coincidences and twists of fate ensure that support. Rahul continues going out of his way to help her, take care of her and do all the small little things that people do in love. Ultimately however, Rahul's love stays just a one-sided affair even after he ends up confessing his feelings via an e-mail to Shreya. Anything ahead of here will give away the 'real' story and hence I would not venture further.

That's the issue! The story was written with only the ending in mind and you can literally feel it as the author makes his way towards the ending, creating and birthing events that have pretty much the same flavor (office, love, heartbreak). Another aspect was that the shift in the POV was irritating, especially initially. I would have much rather preferred the author sticking to the protagonist (Rahul's) POV and not venturing much into Shreya's mind. The shift in tense was another issue in the initial chapters but it might have been an editorial mistake, I am not sure.

Now the real judgment. This book is not a story, though it might come across as one. It is more like a collection of events bound together by fate and their subsequent outcome. The main focus of this story is on 'feelings' and the emotional turmoil the protagonist goes through. The events composed though repetitive are cute, coming from a character who has never been in love before (reminded me of my Rahul from TMD). The ending is surprising, though the title pretty much gives it away that it is not really a 'happily ever after' story. I liked the ending but it might not be lapped up by some. The author has done a decent job of his first novel and his sincere efforts comes across on every page of this easily readable book. It's short (about 144 pages) and cute. Give it a try for your reading buds, especially if you fancy a light romance with an interesting ending. It's a 3/5 from my side!

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March 7, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'All and Nothing' by Raksha Bharadia


The book tells us the stories of four characters apart from the primary character named Tina, a troubled wife who forces her four friends to come together at a house in Mahableshwar to solve the puzzle of their lives. Tina was a budding artist when she met Aditya, a successful executive with an MNC still to get over his first wife. After a series of successful dates, they marry and have two beautiful daughters but post-marriage Aditya is a changed man. And it is this change that Tina cannot fathom. She tries to get rid of the ghosts of the past but Aditya is not willing to let go of his first wife and ultimately all hell breaks loose.

Then there is Tina's cousin Upasana, who should make do with a wife-beating husband and find justifications in his actions. Tina's wife-club friend, Poorvi, who is distraught at not being able to give her husband's family a boy as an heir. Tina's co-worker friend, Manas, who is troubled at having lost his love due to his own doings after seven years of their live-in relationship. Tina's old friend, Kriya, who has always been under her father's shadow and now is a guilty woman after her best-friend committed suicide. And then there is Prashant or Prats, who is Aditya's maternal uncle and only guardian and also Tina's confidante. All these individuals are headed in different directions until a letter from their friend, Tina pulls them towards Mahableshwar where their caller is herself missing but she has left them a letter each and in it, they must discover their lives and move on. The common aspect is that all the characters are tied down to their past in someway or the other and can't seem to let go off it, can't seem to look ahead to a better future and it is Tina, who undertakes the responsibility to do so for them. As she tries to come to terms with Aditya's betrayal, this is more of a challenge for her. Is she successful in taking it up? You'll have to read the book to find out.

This is primarily a story of relationships and tying those loose ends tight. This book shows us the errors of the human heart and mind in an impeccable manner. Real characters highlight the story, making it easy to identify with them. Well-thought of situations and problems that we daily encounter in life make it more endearing. Perhaps the author's experience as the editor of 'The Chicken Soup' series has helped her immensely in doing so because these too are the stories of real people. It's a good pacy read though sometimes the inclusion of Bengali in between is not really necessary and makes the reader skip those parts. The book is divided into four parts and the first two parts are quite pacy though the book tends to slow down toward the middle and the ending. Nevertheless, the latter are interesting too, without meaning to take away anything from the author. She has of course chosen to talk about social evils, martial discontentment and relationships and she excels in doing so in her own unique way with an interesting third-person narrative. The plot is nothing extraordinary, simple and sweet and aimed at giving the story some pace. The settings chosen reinforce that a woman has written this book and rightly so. 

Courtesy: Infibeam news
The author brings you back to the story just when you are on the brink of closing the book for the day, to continue reading it later. It's not a mammoth epic, just around 220 odd pages or so, easily read in a single-sitting like I did. Of course, intelligently thought of, short chapters aid that cause. It is commercial fiction and tends to get literary towards the end but again depends on how the reader absorbs it. Surely one of the better ones this year. I say 4.3/5!

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March 2, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Fate, Fraud & A Friday Wedding' by Bhavna Rai

 It seems Bhavna Rai has stayed in more than seven countries and it is this experience that shows in her debut novel 'Fate, Fraud & A Friday Wedding' (Interesting title!). And going by the title, I was anticipating a Priyadarshan movie kind of a drama but I was not prepared for what was to follow.

An interesting prologue lays the foundation for a promising story. A motley of characters crop up right at the start seeking your attention. We have Anand Sharma, a self-made successful entrepreneur, who owns one of the largest security company, Intellicom. Anand is someone who shifted to the states and made it big there, working with GE, then setting up his own venture. Anand's company manufactures an innovative device that allows customers to directly transact form their computers by swapping their credit cards. 

Enter Neel Kapoor, the new manager at Indysoft technologies, working with two others and reporting to a perfectionist kind of a boss. Neel has given up his big American dream to look after his ageing parents in Delhi and hence has taken up a job with Indysoft. Of course, along with him he brings along his American girlfriend, Jenna, who has given up everything with the hope that Neel will marry her one day. Jenna seeks a transfer from Letsfly, a BPO and shifts to their Indian outsourcing branch where she leads the operations and even manages to identify a big discrepancy in the system with the way scripts. Jenna catches hold of Rajat, a team-leader in the same organization for running malicious scripts and making away with customers' credit card details by using an innocent accomplice, Suman Agarwal. Suman who was deeply in love with Rajat gets blackmailed by him and coerced into doing the dirty job for him due to a MMS scandal featuring her and her blackmailer. Yeah, she has a sister, Monica, who is pregnant and develops labour during the wedding of her friend, Sheila. Both Sheila and Monica alongwith Jyoti and Tanya are a part of a larger group of females, one which includes Tara Mehra, the girl in the middle of it.

Tara Mehra has an unforgettable past. Hooking up with many guys when she was studying in the states until she found Anand, whom she dumped unceremoniously, not realizing how much he loved her. Anand, of course got over her and made it big, realizing that his status was the only reason his lady-love dumped him. Tara vows never to love anyone and toys with a lot of hearts in the process, including that of one of her close friends, Varun. And this continues until she meets Neel, who manages to impress her with his intellect and wit. 

During the wedding, Rajat barges in with a revolver to avenge his humiliation and Neel and Tara are forced together by the turn of events in a hospital as Monica tries to deliver her baby. That time Jenna has moved to the States to celebrate Christmas with her family and also unravel a deeper mystery of the motive beyond the fraudulent transactions. A mystery she cracks alone and ends up meeting Anand to give him the details of the entire thing and what follows is an engaging and surprising ending.

The most engaging character was Jenna. Her sweet nature and hardworking attitude, and a will to give her relation a try no matter what that costs her, grabs your heart and in the end, you sympathize with her as her boyfriend never gets time to see her and is only obsessed about the Intellicom deal that he should win to prove his caliber. The main story is however based on only three characters,i.e. Anand, Neel and Tara and the others are mainly secondary characters though Jenna's/Suman's/Rajat's POV also ends up taking part in the story though the author uses third person narrative. 

It is said too many cooks, spoil the broth. The author confuses the reader initially by bringing out character after character in what is basically the story of three individuals. Similar sounding names or rather too many characters to keep track off initially might put one off initially but the story grows on you as you cruise along. Another drawback was shifting view points in different paragraphs, a technique I haven't seen many Indian authors use in commercial fiction. Also flashbacks emerge out of nowhere and it takes sometime to get used to the flow of the story. There are various subplots involved and they seem to fall in place during the wedding, so you will need some patience to read through and understand what is going around before you get the hang of it. Scene changes are not highlighted through the use of an asterisk or two and one wonders how a new character suddenly starts talking until you realize it's a different scene altogether but I guess that may be an editorial mistake, so let's not arrive at judgments too soon.

However, set against the backdrop of the IT industry boom (like Sundip Gorai's 'HDS', thankfully no LORD emerged this time!), the novel manages to stir a thought or two. I really liked the subtle use of metaphors and analyzing feelings of the primary characters. In one instance, the author intelligently uses raindrops on a glass window (one falling down to be immediately replaced by the other) to showcase Tara letting go of her past. The author manages to display the contrast between America and India through Neel and Jenna's mannerisms. The dialogue is crisp and to the point and the author does not waste much time in actions except for the narrative. It was a more than decent story, surely one of the better reads this year and the author has done well to showcase her knowledge and writing skills at the same time. Overall, a worthy read with a surprising ending. Rating? A sure-shot 4/5!

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March 1, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Diary Of A Social Butterfly' by Moni Mohsin

 This is the first book I read from this author and it made me seek out her earlier book 'The End of Innocence' which is a very different one from the book I'm currently going to talk about. I was hoping it would be kind of the same and was a bit disappointed to note that it was more of the serious types (I don't know why!) but glad the author came up with a sequel to this fabulous read.
'The Diary of a social butterfly' by Moni Mohsin, one of Pakistan's most celebrated columnists is a humorous satire in a noveau rich female's voice. Moni Mohsin, who was in Mumbai some weeks back to promote her new book 'Tender hooks' (which is a sequel to this one and marks the return of the Butterfly), shaped this book in the 90s in a column in Lahore's Friday Times. The book is a collection of these columns, wittily put together from 2001 to 2008.
The period covers a lot of turmoil in Pakistan including wars, militarization, the 9/11 incident, the President's US dilemma, earthquake, emergency rule, Benazir Bhutto's assassination and fundamentalist policies. It is almost difficult to believe that anyone can extract humor out of it in a light-hearted manner.The lead character Butterfly Khan sounds like a desperate-to-showoff kind of a wife, who thinks that her husband aka 'Janoo' (as she likes to call him), is dheela (No, his name is not dheela...dheela ki jawaani and whether he's sexy or not... ah!) While describing him she says "You say even one small thing and he corrupts like a volcano." 
Butterfly's use of the English language is really interesting and throws up quite a few innuendos. The most hilarious one I found consists of Butterfly describing her mother-in-law's (The Old bag's) angina attack as vagina attack. The real highlight of the book is the way Butterfly interprets Pakistan's inner turmoil and political pressures. She talks about the Taliban in an almost dismissive manner and the most important thing on her mind if they come to power is that her foreign trips would be cut off. She shops as Harrod's in London and renames some of the most popular brands in the world to suit herself and she does not limit herself to just brands, goes on to include her family members as well. She believes she is the limelight of every part and a page three star. She lives in her own sweet world, surrounded by like-minded friends (Floozie, Mulloo and Dropsy), husband (Janoo), son (Kulchoo), sister-in-laws (Gruesome Twosome) and of course her mother-in-law (The Old bag). Not to forget Aunty Pussy (I'm serious and no, there is no Uncle Dick before you get any ideas of your own!)
Sometimes you end up wondering the actual reason behind Janoo marrying Butterfly but you are glad he did because this ends up giving you some of the most hard-hitting scenes in the book which I cannot go in further for fear of spoiling the story. Janoo is more interested in the world and his business but shahtoosh shawls and foreign shopping trips are the only thing on Butterfly's mind.
“Janoo tau, bechara, bilkul hi crack ho gaya. All day now he spends reading international news on things on the Inner Net,”she says when her husband is keeping track of the ravaging war. Butterfly comes across as a fresh change after Bridget Jones or even the Shopaholic series. Kudos to Butterfly for being so confident despite her shortcomings and hats-off to the author for creating such an identifiable character because I'm sure you've seen people who are at least fifty percent like this memorable house-wife (and no, I'm not talking about Savitha bhabhi :P) Read this one for Butterfly's charming voice and amazingly dumb wit and her literal grinding of the English language which gives us locutions like 'proper-gainda' and 'what cheeks!' I can't miss the next one for sure. As for this one, deserves a more than decent 4.5/5!

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February 27, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Turbulence' by Samit Basu

This one zooms through at a quirky pace and is laced with action, romance, drama and even some tragedy. ‘Turbulence’ is a super-heroes novel and the reader almost has fun believing the facts about the narrow metropolitan cities of India which shelter super-human powers. The story deals with passengers on flight BA 142 London-Mumbai getting infected with super powers or rather their wishes come true as per what they dream. The powers reflect their innermost desires or longings in real life. Such a blessing however has major repercussions too, as some mysterious power searches for all the passengers who were aboard that cursed flight and puzzling disappearances start occurring.

So now you have survivors like Aman Sen, who uses his mind to connect to the Internet and break any communication barrier; Vir Singh, a flight lieutenant who can fly in the air and has an almost machine-like body; Tia, a housewife from Assam who can split into various forms; a sleep-walking scientist, who is working on some portable warrior machine; a boy, who has control over the climate around him; a school girl who morphs into a Japanese manga-like Ninja warrior, just like a tiger-man who’s with her; a magician who can create extraordinary illusions and many more along with a reporter, who has the power to smell out major happenings (or does she?) and Uzma Abidi, who ends up playing the real hero’s love interest but is blessed with a mysterious power too. And of course, there is a mysterious character that can control mobs and destroy everything in seconds. 

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February 26, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Johnny gone down' by Karan Bajaj

 Meet Nikhil Arya. Just graduated from MIT and with an offer from NASA, he and his friend decide to take an impulsive trip to Cambodia, only to find the trip change his life in a way, he could never have imagined. From Cambodia, the protagonist Nikhil aka Saint Khimchu aka Nick aka Johnny, travels to Thailand and then to Rio de Janerio and from there to Minnesota before finally arriving at New Delhi in a train where the story is narrated in a flashback mode as he plays Russian roulette (the most interesting setting for a flashback I have ever seen)

Throughout his journey, Johnny experiences some really peculiar experiences. His transition is indeed touching for the reader. The experience in Cambodia leaves him without a hand and in Rio de Janerio, he has close encounters with the Brazilian mafia. The author uses his vast travel experiences to bring forth cultural influences on the protagonist, who emerges as a survivor, no matter how many challenges life throws at him. In that sense, the story has a moral bearing too. All the characters in the protagonist’s life; from his friend, Sam to his girlfriend and wife, Lara are charmed by his short-presence in their lives. And yes, their impact on Johnny too has been phenomenal. The reader can sense the change in Johnny’s heart, his emotions and his outlook as the story moves on. Towards the middle of the story, you start feeling a strong connect with this memorable character.

This is Bajaj’s second book and way better, than his first. You can literally see the practicality of the experience curve, that is if you have read ‘Keep off the grass’ (his first novel). This one doesn’t disappoint though I know this book too has had its fair share of critics. The story is gripping and you have to force yourself to hold your bladder alongwith the book while nature keeps ringing the bell. The book has already created a record of sorts, with a first print run of about 50000 copies and now the second edition is already in stores. The literati types may not exactly snuggle upto this one but mass readers like me, will surely form a good opinion of Bajaj’s second novel. The book is simply unputdownable and at the end of the story, you end up wishing that it never ended! If you still haven’t read it, what are you waiting for? It has the official Faraaz Kazi stamp on it now. I give it a 4.7/5!


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