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December 29, 2012

Book Review - 107 : Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas

Author : Madhuri Banerjee
Publisher : Penguin Metro Reads

Kaveri, the protagonist of the novel, is a 29-year-old, who is soon turning 30. She is a single woman who is in search of her true love that has eluded her this far. She is an interpreter by profession and has mastered seven languages. She has read many books on men and how to land a date, yet she struggles to find a perfect partner. Her friend Aditi, who is quite experienced in terms of love and relationships, offers to help her by arranging dates for Kaveri.

After a slew of unsuccessful dates, she does finally end up in a relationship, which is kind of ephemeral with the man, but true and eternal with her own self. The plot of the novel progressively moves from Kaveri being a lonely 30-year-old single woman, who is going through the roller coaster ride of a romantic relationship, to her discovering her own individuality.

This is one clit-lit (oops, chick-lit) which is almost done correctly. Kaveri may not be the best central character you will read this year, but she grows on you. Living in a sexually repressed environment, she gradually learns to live on her own terms in a relationship, even though it takes her multiple attempts (and sex sessions!) to just get it right. The story resonates with the lives of quite a few modern Indian women – who in the quest to make it big in their careers give no space to “love” as such and end up satisfying their mere sexual needs with different partners, only to realize sooner or later that “love” cannot be ruled out of life.

Such kind of mass Indian fiction within realms of Chic-lit obviously comes with its own limitations. Why even after living in Mumbai and being 30, she can't find one single decent man? And when she does, she almost experiments to sleep with all of them. You can attribute that to the sexual experimentation phase Kaveri is going through, but in the end it just poses some unconvincing questions.

I am going with 3/5 for Madhuri Banerjee's 'Losing my Virginity and other dumb ideas'. The book has a cynical tone on love, sex and relationships and one of the main reasons why it resonated with me. You may have a polarizing view on the central protagonist but in the end the fact that you invoke strong emotions about her is what works in the favour of the book. Give it a shot, you will not be entirely disappointed.

December 22, 2012

Book Review - 106 : Jack Patel's Dubai Dreams

Author : P.G. Bhaskar
Publisher : Penguin Metro Reads

Jaikishan Patel belongs to a traditional Gujarati family but follows his passion, stepping into the glamorous, jet-setting world of investment and private banking. Jai is soon transformed into Dubai-based ‘Jack’ Patel, a hugely successful financial advisor in an American brokerage house. His life seems like a dream come true. He cracks a whopping million- dollar revenue target, receives an indecent proposal from a client’s wife and even manages to keep up with the latest Bollywood item numbers to impress the girl who is tugging at his heart. But just when life seems perfect, recession hits the world economy. And right before Jack’s eyes his world begins to fall apart . . . Will he lose the love of his life too? Or will things look up in the end?

Going by the author interviews, the book is a semi-autobiographical account of writer's own experiences during a recession hit market and how his own professional career in wealth management took a nosedive. Written in those dark days, it provided him a breather from the quotidian activities at the work desk. It is an uncomplicated tale of the complexities of life.

The financial jargon is kept to a minimum to avoid cramming in brains for the lay man. The pacing is brisk, editing relatively tight and the narrative moves forward without too many plot spoils. However, it does not take away from the fact that there is such flat tone to the whole story that you are left wondering being in a finance induction program. The author monotonously takes you to the whole recession episode and that's where you feel let down. There are splashes of humour and irony but in the end context, they are few and far in between.

However, the book actually is far away from the trash. The way writer builds up the psyche of Jack with his clients is commendable and an endearing quality emerges for him among the difficult situations. The writing is contemporary and will remind of your own professional situations, something which you can relate to. He is authentic in the portrayal of gamut of emotions - anger, anxiety, irritation, hopelessness and depression.

I am going with 2.5/5 for P.G. Bhaskar debut novel, 'Jack Patel's Dubai Dreams'. The book is written in deathly serious tone and there are very few moments of relief.  Read it if you want to explore a new world of  wealth management domain in the financial industry.

December 15, 2012

Book Review - 105 : Circle of Three

Author : Rohit Gore
Publisher : Grapevine

The Circle of Three is the story of three people who have lost all hope in life. One day, their paths cross and their destinies are forever changed.

Thirteen year old Aryan Khosla has no friends, rarely meets his busy and quarrelling parents, and is tormented by a gang of school bullies. He feels his birth was a mistake and thinks no one would notice if he disappeared from this world.

Thirty-three year old Ria Marathe, a successful scriptwriter, lost her husband and only son in a terrible accident, and later came to know her childhood sweetheart husband was cheating on her for a long time. Faced with a lifetime of misery, she has decided to commit suicide.

Sixty-three year old Rana Rathod, a long forgotten author, has carelessly lived off the trust created by his wealthy family and feels betrayed by his two children who sided with his wife during their brutal divorce thirty years back. He fears he is going to die a bitter man.

Will Aryan lose his childhood to his loneliness? Will Ria lose her life to her tragedy? Will Rana lose his dignity to his past sins? The Circle of Three is about finding a new beginning in life, of forgiving and ultimately, finding hope.

The writer makes a strong case of hope in seamlessly hopeless situations. The story revolves between three unhappy protagonists whose live entwined and resolved in an almost telepathic manner. All these characters are inherently broken, they have a strong back stories to justify their present behaviour but all are yearning to get back to a better life within the realms of worldly limitations. There is depth to each character and a rare sensitivity specially to the thoughts of the 13-year old. You may find lot of situations implausible and reactions over-the-top but you are willing to over look those flaws in a narrative which is keeping you hooked.

What hurts the book in the end is the length which is way too long at over 250 odd pages. If you can somehow get past this minor glitch, there is a strong sense of reassurance prevalent through the narrative regarding a positive approach of life and how not to harbour negative thoughts. The author does well in not inundating the narrative with too many characters which is generally too common these days in Indian fiction. As a result, all three characters are neatly etched out and the metamorphosis of each of them over the course of the story does not look contrived.

I am going with 3/5 for Rohit Gore's 'Circle of Three'. A little shorter, better edited and more nuanced this could have been a more rewarding read. In its present form, it is a one time read. Be patient with it, you may be pleasantly surprised at various plot points. It has got its heart at the right place, but you may find other body parts scattered all over.

December 8, 2012

Book Review - 104 : Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai

Author : Rishi Vohra
Publisher : Jaico Publishing House

Babloo, a Mumbai resident is autistic and people often misunderstood him as 'psychotic' and 'schizophrenic'. His world is divided into two parts - Vandana, the sole affection in his life and the rest of the world. He has a no relationship with his brother, Shekhar and a hate relationship with Sikander, the local cable operator guy. A basic plot clearly 'inspired' from SRK's character in My name is Khan, it singles out the difficulties of the central character interspersed with the nuances of the relationship he is trying to have in his life and the elevation of Rail Man in the Mumbai locals.

The author do make some interesting observations - molestation and indecent touching of women in local trains and their indifferent reactions towards men at times, society's reaction towards autism or any such ability, constant effort to believe in your dreams and keep following them even when chips are down. But all these plot points are burrowed under a long narrative of over 270 pages and that tends to make things tedious.

The author is clearly influenced from the Bollywood films and even though amalgamation of plot points within the story line are not that seamless, you can take the risk of ignoring the same. The ending is as expected, and the writer does not show any tendency to make the climax any "different" than the routine one. A feel good narrative keeps you interested though tendency to slipping in grammatical errors in such books is a routine now.

I am going with 2/5 for Rishi Vohra's 'Once upon the tracks of Mumbai'. There is inherent sincerity with which central character has been handled, but there is very little unpredictability or freshness which you may experience while reading the book. Read if you are a fan of Bollywood kind of romances in books.

December 1, 2012

Book Review - 103 : Love in Crazy Times

Author : KV Gautam
Publisher : Diamond Books

The protagonist Amit is a daring middle class guy who chases both love and dream of starting his own business. The story, narrated in the first person by Amit, is set in Delhi from the period of 2005 to 2011. The story follows life of Amit, a small town boy armed with optimism and confidence, who comes to Delhi in search of a job. The story also narrates personal and professional struggles of his friends Suraj and Shantanu, who came to Delhi from Lucknow and Kolkata respectively.

He is faced with the hypocritical Indian society and the corrupt business class on his path. His victory is not easy and comes after a long trail of personal and professional setbacks.The story also shows how India, after the economic liberalization, is offering immense opportunities as well as challenges to young people. Its also about the cultural gap between a small town and a metro, and how parents find it difficult to adjust in a fast changing nation.

Relying solely on central protagonist's over reactions, the book is slow and does not achieve anything in terms of plot. Even if you ignore numerous grammatical and spelling mistakes, the confusing timelines and progression of the narrative will leave you dumbfounded. Amit turns out to be a whiner, and even though there are deliberate attempts to show him as a loser in order to illustrate his inner conflict, it comes off as contrived and superficial. There are too many incidents sprinkled through the narrative which have no connection with the main story line neither they contribute to any of the characters. In the end, they just add to the length of the book.

I am going with 1/5 for KV Gautam's 'Love in Crazy Times'. It is a book in which the lead character tries hard to do something of his life. There are good chances you will not feel the same about your life after reading the book. Even though it is only 150 odd pages long, it will seriously test your patience. Read at your own risk.

November 30, 2012

Book Review - 102 : Secret of the Scribe

Author : Douglas Misquita
Publisher : Lead Start Publishing

A cave-expedition to the remote borders of China and Tibet unearth enigmatic discs that are believed to be of extraterrestrial origin. But their discovery is quickly squashed and erased from official records. When venture capitalist Mark Steinberg launches Linguistics, Inc. and unveils cutting-edge Nanotechnology-based communication, an enthralled human race is ready to proclaim the written and spoken word a thing of the past. 

But unknown to the world, Linguistics is setting the stage for total control. Leading the scattered resistance movement, Lance Michener wants to shut down the Linguistics network before the damage is total and irreversible. At the center of the conflict is the hunt for the mythical Book of Thoth - the Book of Wisdom of the Gods; a Book that contains the secrets of the language of all earthly species and languages yet unknown. And as Linguistics ushers in an era of global mind control, the race is on to prevent The Book from falling into the wrong hands.

Douglas pack in the same elements of fast pace adrenaline pumping action sequences as his debut novel, Haunted. Transported through various locales, the narrative remains true to its sequence of events though clearly the cliches of good vs evil are carried in yet again done-to-death scenes. Where the author does set up the plot competently, he falls short in building an interesting central character or even bit-piece players who are worth rooting for. Instead, we get long passages detailing the settings - from confrontation scenes to near escapes, from action sequences to mythical creatures but the emotional connect is sorely missing as a reader. The author knows this material inside out, but the way it has been put forward makes it an exercise in excess. 

I am going with 3/5 for Douglas Misquita's second offering, 'Secret of the Scribe'. It is well mentioned and researched book, but it requires deft touches of a publisher and editor to market and trim the material respectively. A voice which needs to be encouraged because of a unique style and scarcity of such fiction in Indian arena, but not before doing a lot of basic things right.

November 25, 2012

Book Review - 101 : The Celestial Hunt

Publisher : Kaveri Pathippakam
Author : R. Devikumar

The plot starts in the city of Vizag -India, with Rajesh, the son of a renowned writer Ram, picking up a mysterious book named “Providential Psyches’ authored by Sangfrod.In the meantime, Eliza meets Graham on Boracay Island – Philippines, and presents him with a painting with the name Sangfrod engraved at its bottom and asks him to decipher it. Anil, physicist and the protagonist, designs a time machine and selects three people – a wicked politician, a powerful religious leader notorious for inciting communal tensions and a terrorist kingpin, for a time travel.

The author starts with an interesting premise and that particular interest in the exploring this genre is evident from the preface itself. He makes some genuine observations about the time travel and situations the various characters find themselves in but the writing is full of grammatical, punctuation, spelling and English usage is particularly terrible. All this takes away from the experience of reading the book which is sad because it had the potential to be much better.

I am going with 1.5/5 for R.Devikumar's 'Celestial Hunt'. It deserved better editing and publishing, it would have been far more rewarding read.

November 21, 2012

Book Review - 100 : (In)eligible Bachelors

Author : Ruchita Misra
Publisher : Rupa & Co

Written in the form of a diary in the first person, the book talks about Misra’s protagonist, 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 hear a NO from Kasturi on that matter. Kasturi’s father has no say in the matter and chooses to remain outside than watch mother-daughter fighting it out at home. Rest of the story is about men in her life and the complications there after.

The book works typically as yet another chick-lit, saved tremendously by witting writing by the author. It is not path breaking writing nor it intends to, but just allows you to have a time-pass read. The twist in the story is too close to the twist in Chetan Bhagat's debut novel 'Five Point Someone' and there are too many formulaic incidents for my liking. Grammatical errors apart (i read the first print), the book is fast paced and does not delve too deeply into any of the issues it claims to be handling in the narrative.

The writer makes some interesting points but coincidence is one big plot twist which is thrown in so often, it is clear that the author has taken the convenient route than a harder one. Even though occasionally indulgent, the book moves at a brisk pace and dwells little on the major plot points. The lead character, Kasturi is charming yet displays vulnerability as easily as cockiness. The author did manages to bring out the dichotomies of her life well and influence of other characters are bounced off well.

I am going with generous 2.5/5 for Ruchita Misra's '(In)Eligible Bachelors'. Read within realms of a chick-lit and you will not be disappointed with the book. It is a witty, fast pace read which is good time pass read for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

November 14, 2012

Book Review - 99 : A Mysterious Death at Sainik Farms

Author : Rukmani Anandani
Publisher : Rupa & Co

Ugrasen is murdered at Sainik Farms residence, the case is brought to the notice of detective Ganapati Iyer by the deceased's niece Anjali, who suspects some sort of foul play. Ganapati accompanied by his friend and flat mate Vinayak reaches the crime scene to find a bunch family members who may be privy to lot more information than what they are letting on. Here on, its a cat and mouse game to find the killer and solve the mystery shrouding the death of Ugrasen.

Ugrasen is a successful man and demands that his children meet his ideals of success. He is also domineering and rather stubborn, believing that he knows what is best for his adult children and is constantly pressuring them to do as he demands. This sets up the mystery rather nicely since he has ruffled quite a few feathers and caused his family to be frustrated with his high-handedness.

Unlike most Indian mystery novels, this one relies more on observations rather than interrogations and hence, make the material less verbose.The writing at times appears contrived (She' from the Lucknow branch of my mother's family). The mystery, however is not tight and it is quite likely that you will be able to guess the killer much before the climax. The number of characters pile up and almost all of them come under scanner for being accused of murder. The relationship specially that of Ugrasen and his wife borders on soap-opera melodrama and his relationship with a nubile assistant is stretched beyond means.

There are interesting portions which keeps you glued though the journey does get bumpy. The detailing of the house and their personal lives is done at length and takes you to the center of action. The fact that murder investigation is triggered  by an adolescent girl is cute in itself though lends less credence.

I am going with generous 3/5 for Rukmani Anandani's 'A Mysterious death at Sainik Farms'. It is not the best murder mystery you will read this year, but it keeps you just that bit interested. With more interesting central protagonist detective, this book could have been a more rewarding read. In its present form, its a one time read.

November 5, 2012

Book Review - 98 : The Bankster

Author : Ravi Subramanium
Publisher : Rupa Publications

My feedback for Ravi Subramanium fiction work has always been mixed, but this is no hidden fact that he knows his audience well enough and does not shy away from the fact that there are enough stories to be told within the banking sector, enough plot lines to be explored within the banking realms and yet not feel literally claustrophobic about the next piece of writing you are presenting to your readers.

The Bankster, Ravi's latest offering takes you through continents and runs into a multiple narrative structure. The scene of the story varies from Mumbai to the peaceful Cochin to the beautiful Vienna and the dusty Angola. From high corporate parties to large scale village protests, the author manages to capture all the flavors of Indian brains.

Bankers build their careers on trust, or so everyone thinks, till a series of murders threaten to destroy the reputation that the Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2) has built over the years. Who is behind these killings, and what is their motive?

When Karan Panjabi, press reporter and ex-banker, digs deeper, he realizes that he has stumbled upon a global conspiracy with far reaching ramifications a secret that could not only destroy the bank but also cast a shadow on the entire nation. With only thirty-six hours at his disposal, he must fight the clock and trust no one if he is to stay alive and uncover the truth.

There is the usual workplace politics at play where salaries are increased at the click of the mouse to accommodate inflated egos and unconcealed greed and performance targets are achieved at the cost of betraying trust. Pacing has never been the problem with Ravi's books and even in this one, splattered with banking jargon and few grammatical errors, things moves at a frenetic pace. Karan's superhuman effort to solve the mystery on the basis of the clues takes a bit of improbable route but it neatly ties all the clues in the end. The portions of ipad and sync with other apple products requires some immediate editing in the next version, cutting down the material by good 20 odd pages. The ACP becoming DGP at around 150 page are just some of the editorial glitches and nitpicking i can think off.

I am going with 3/5 for Ravi Subramanium's latest offering, 'The Bankster'. If, like me, you have read most of the author's books, you will wonder where the graph of his writing is going. There may be enough stories to tell in the banking sector but shouldn't the legacy of the writer be to create different worlds? For the fans of Mr. Subramanium, they will not be a tad disappointed. It offers another competently written, racy mystery thriller waiting to be explored.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

October 23, 2012

Book Review - 97 : Confessionally Yours

Author : Jhoomur Bose
Publisher : Penguin Metro Reads

If one makes the mistake of reading only the first few pages of this book and thereafter, abandoning it I would not really blame the reader. The way it starts, it can easily be classified as soft porn literally shouting from the roof top to proclaim, “Look at me, my language, my expressions. Oh, I am so cool”.  It is only when the author start concentrating on letting the readers invest in the characters and their emotions, the real motive of being engaged as a reader comes out in this book. Unfortunately, it finally reaches its climax by taking too many sentimental detours and clearly, by that time your appreciation of the story has thinned off.

Enter Bose’s protagonist Polly Sharma, a frazzled newly married trainee trying to find her footing not just in the weekly paper she works with but also in her not-so-perfect marital life.
Polly is not aggressive enough for her bitching colleagues and friends... In the midst of all this, Polly has to write an expose on an anonymous blogger who has the entire media talking. Polly has been offered big money to write the story but writing it could cost other people their jobs and Polly her closest friend. But when things take a drastic turn Polly knows she will need to sort out her life and this story might be her only resort...

It has all the required ingredients of being a chick-lit : bitchy talks between females, dash of melodrama, couple of erotic references and a strong non-judgmental climax. The main protagonist, Polly believes that there is something good in everything unless things turn blatant nasty for her. In such adversities, both personal and professional, her true strength emerges. It also reiterates the point that you can let people run over you only that much; beyond a point no one else but it is you who has to stand for your dignity, for your respect and for your future.

I am going with 3/5 for Jhoomur Bose, 'Confessionally Yours'. It is not the best chick-lit you will read this year, just that if the author would have concentrated more on the characters that investing too much in settings, this would have been a far more rewarding read. In the present form, it is a one time read for the fans of Penguin Metro reads.

October 17, 2012

Book Review - 96 : The Householder

Author : Amitabha Bagchi
Publisher : Fourth Estate

I must admit i was not a big fan of the writer's debut novel, 'Above Average'. I thought it was a book which was true to its title. But in his next book, the writer explores the dark underbelly of power, greed and corruption in Delhi. It has delicate touches of humour and sensitivity which is rare to find in the India based fiction writing these days.

The novel incorporates two worlds — New Delhi’s babu-dom and the flashy gen-next culture of Gurgaon’s call centres. He takes us into the labyrinth of bureaucracy to meet Naresh Kumar, PA to Shri Asthana, IAS. Although he failed to make the grade as an IAS officer, Naresh learnt early in life how to negotiate the path to success — from upping the dowry amount set by his father to securing his first bribe. Naresh’s moral justification is that he is a householder, a man whose primary duty is to provide for his family.

Naresh’s life progresses satisfactorily until a series of calamities occur. A complaint on a deal — which helped Naresh pay for the catering and the tent-wallah at his daughter’s wedding — leads to a departmental inquiry that results in Naresh being suspended. His daughter Seema’s marriage flounders because she has not borne the obligatory child despite IVF treatments. His son Praveen, who works in a call centre, gets implicated in a murder and runs off to Manali. And moreover, he is attracted to a widow colleague Pinki, who has marriage plans of her own. The Householder is about how Naresh charts his journey through these turbulent waters. 

There are scenes which stay with you - like the one where the mother and the daughter in a casual dining table conversation discuss about men's approach towards sex or the one where Naresh is fired.  The decaying moral fiber of the society and families, in general always loom around in the background and gives us a surprising, yet disturbing overview of each of us as individuals.

The writing is taut in most cases and even though the book does get slow at times, but then picks up pace once more toward the final leg. Amitabha writes about a world where money rules and nothing can be done without it – he presents the dilemma of a common man – of morals, of the metaphoric good and evil and the choices we make.

I am going with 4/5 for Amitabha Bachi's 'The Householder'. It is slow at times, but in the end it is an extremely rewarding read. It promises to break new grounds and in make sure, it achieves that with some solid storytelling. Don't miss it.

October 9, 2012

Book Review - 95 : Artist, Undone

Author : V. Sanjay Kumar
Publisher : Hachette India

Artist, Undone is like being on an Adventure Island, not really knowing what to expect but in the end you will be more than happy to have taken this trip. It is the narrative of one man's understanding of the creation, the commerce and the critiquing of the contemporary art. It is also finding your true self even when it is late in life with redeeming qualities and redefining perspectives.

The novel traces the life of Harsh Sinha - who sees a similar portrait of himself in a painting(Titled: Fat, Forty and Fucked, rechristened in Hindi as Chaalis, Charbi aur Chootiya)and purchases it on an impulse. He decides to take a year-long sabbatical from his advertising job in Mumbai to return to his family in Chennai, to be able to spend time with his wife and daughter. Sadly, for him his wife doesn't want him anymore. Ironically, she is interested in the artist next door - Newton Kumaraswamy. Harsh is perplexed. His life has crumbled right before his eyes and he has nothing but a painting to account for. He then goes back to Mumbai and gets involved in the world of art and artists.

The author gives us an inside view of the Indian art world: how some artists live and survive, the cold silence and unique marketing style of Mumbai galleries, the ad-hocism of price and purchase of art work et. al. The author put this on paper with great detailing and paints a realistic, honest portrait of the art world which very few of us can claim to know. There are brilliant portions where the juxtaposition of the inner world of Harsh along with his newly acquired perspectives of the art world will leave you spell bound. All the more, it raises an important question, what exactly art is in India?

I am going with 4/5 for V.Sanjay Kumar's 'Artist, Undone'. It is one of those rare debut novels which you may start with little expectations but will be pleasantly surprised by the turns and twists it takes through the narrative. It is worth your money and time. Go for it!!

October 3, 2012

Start of the Final Love Story...

Love stories never get old. They are not meant to be touched, tampered or tinkered with. They age with time, just like wine. Sometimes even better, sometimes a bit nastier. Love stories evolve, but never dissolve into pieces. Just like ghost stories, they become more elusive. More meaner, more spicier, more engaging, sometimes heart-breaking, and mostly all the more ridiculous and almost every time, without logic.

PS: It's a little late to update for blogger friends and followers but you see - another bachelor has got caged, on 23 September, i got engaged. And yes, it's my 30th Birthday today. One year more, not sure a year wiser! ;-)

September 24, 2012

Book Review - 94 : Tea for Two and a Piece of Cake

Author : Preeti Shenoy
Publisher : Ebury Press

'Tea for Two and a Piece of Cake' deal with Nisha and his broken marriage with Samir who unexpectedly announces the end of their eight year long relationship. Nisha is left with two kids and an unknown future. She struggles to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life from scratch. As she see-saws through a series of emotions and feelings of pain and rejection, she finds Akash, an old friend, standing next to her through her dark days. Can Nisha build a new life with Akash or has her broken marriage put off her love life forever?

Neatly written and a not-so-unpredictable story, the book captures your imagination with the sincerity of the characters and the simplicity with which writer puts down the conversations with the lead pair. 
A high point in the book was brought by the balance writer shows in portraying the relationships. This could have easily become those extreme, male bashing & feminist novels, but thankfully the stereotypes are at least half broken. The "we-want-kids-or-not" conversation between Nisha and Samir are heart wrenching, so does the portions about Nisha regarding ability to find your true professional strengths in the matter of adversity. No doubt, the character of Akash is painted with broad strokes with that "Mr. Perfect" Outlook but since it is etched out with love and a rare tenderness, you are ready to forgive the drawbacks.

I am going with 3/5 for Preeti Shenoy's 'Tea for Two and a Piece of Cake'. Within the realms of adult Indian fiction, it is a book which will leave you with a feeling of satisfaction. 

September 18, 2012

Book Review - 93 : The Reluctant Detective

Author : Kiran Manral
Publisher: Westland Publications

Sometime writers start off with a good idea, but get completely lost during the execution. Kiran Manral 'The reluctant detective' is one such instance. The book is about a typical Mumbai Suburban housewife, Kanan Mehra bored with a routine life, looking for a purpose in life beyond kitty parties and shopping. She is a young mother, who is very curious about things that she should be avoiding at any cost. When she finds a couple of quick successive murders taking place in her neighborhood, her curiosity gets the better of her and she makes a team with Runa, her nosy neighbour and detective friend, in an attempt to find the murderers.

I know for a fact that when this book first came out, it was pitched as a breezy murder mystery to be solved by a housewife, which on paper and a pager-summary may have sounded a terrific idea, but the execution delves on plain boring and borderline, ridiculous. The author can't seem to decide what to do with this story line - should this be a tight murder mystery or just a coming of age story of an individual who finds herself in unusual circumstances. 

We do get the point that one should not get involved in the matters of others, specially when you have little knowledge of the details but this is hammered with such languorous pace and insipid dialogues that i found it difficult to complete the book.It does not work as a mystery neither it works as diary entry of a bored housewife. There aren't any surprises and only time you stays with the character of Kanan is when she is with her husband trying to work out some kind of coherent solutions.  

I am going with 1.5/5 for Kiran Manral's 'The Reluctant Detective'. You can see the talent and the scope of the writer in the book, in the end it is just an experiential read which has gone wrong. Read it at your own risk.

September 12, 2012

Book Review - 92 : How I Braved Anu Aunty & co-founded a Million Dollar Company

Publisher : Rupa & Co.
Author : Varun Agarwal

'How i braved Anu Aunty and Co-founded a Million Dollar Company' is entrepreneur and author Varun Agarwal's story who is an alumnus of the Bishop Cotton Boy's School, and the co-founder of Alma Mater (a website dealing with school memorabilia). The story is straight forward, reiterating the theme of following your dreams even when a pushy Anu Auntie is all set to thwart your professional ambitions when they are just taking shape to fly off.

The book is a breezy read with SMS lingo and cuss words thrown in like a routine. The pace is brisk and even though it does get preachy by those "in-liners about entrepreneurship , the basic motivation of penning down the book remain with you. How you should not give up after initial hiccups of starting your own company, how a small idea can be made big if due diligence is done and how one needs to follow the heart at all times, yet be ruthless in the competition.

It completely helps that even though some of the incidents may be fictionalized, most scenes are straight out of real life and duly inspired from author's own experiences of setting up this company which is valued at over million dollars. However, the book has little to dwell on the partner Rohan Malhotra efforts in taking forward this venture and that to me stuck out like a big sore thumb.

I am going with 3/5 for  Varun Agarwal's debut novel. It is a fast read, just don't delve too much into looking for any textures or subtleties. Enjoy it for what it was intended to be, one time read to allow you to think about entrepreneurship, nothing more.

September 6, 2012

Book Review - 91 : Ten Days

Author : Azharuddin
Publisher : General Press

Caught in the carnage Down Under in Australia, Zeeshan Akhtarlies wrecked when Amanda Stewart comes to his rescue. She peels off slowly each layer of his life to make him realize his shortcomings,loopholes, desires and dreams during the casual repartee they exchange and which act as his life saviour.

Zeeshan, after ten days of vital rehabilitation and recuperation, flies off to India forever to the love of his life and his family without whom he feels incomplete. He, however, leaves Amanda back in Australia, gifting her feeling of eternal incompleteness as she had fallen in love for the first time unluckily with an extraterrestrial like Zeeshan. Tried as she might have been, she is unable to express her personal feelings in front of him nor she is able to do so behind him.

You would think that the author tried to get a lot ahead of himself with this novel and almost write this off as a cliche, but you couldn't be more surprised. The story is more about Zeeshan's self-discovery, with the backdrop of the Australia attacks but the whole matter is written with heavy hand, almost trying too hard to fit in everything and ultimately misses the point big time.

The biggest issue is the story here which is as flat as Kareena Kapoor's stomach and is hardly gripping. The back cover encapsulates all the turns and twists, so you would wonder why there is a need to read the book at all. Racism is a big issue which requires sensitivity and detailing to make a good read in the fiction form but it just skims the surface regarding the main issue and concentrates on the love story (which in itself is quite uninteresting).

I am going with 1/5 for Azharduddin's 'Ten Day's. It is written with deathly tone and language reeks of pretentious usage of word. Read it at your own risk!

August 23, 2012

Book Review - 90 : Thirty Year Old Virgin

Author: Ankit Uttam
Publisher: General Press

Before i actually start the review i want to ask - what does a writer wants when he write a book? Let us make it simple. As per me, a writer has a thought - mostly, interesting enough which if applied, can make way for a detailed narrative with sufficient twists and turns to keep the readers engaged. But what if you find that scenes are just lifted from popular, mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood films with no effort being made in even tinkering with the dialogues. Well, Thirty year Old Virgin is one such instance!

There is nothing wrong with being 'inspired' by movies and writing a story based on it. Most of the books which are coming out are doing the same and it can be 'forgiven' if done interestingly enough to keep the readers engaged and hooked. 'Thirty year old virgin' by Ankit Uttam does not even try to do this. All the author has managed is string events from the popular format movies, put them in a IIM-and-MNC setting and give us this piece of literature.

The first 80 odd pages of the book is set in IIM-A where the girl and the boy get into this relationship of fringe benefits. Fair enough, this concept even though cliche and exploited multiple times can be read if done interestingly. Instead what we get are the scenes and dialogues literally lifted from Will Gluck's romantic comedy starring Justin TimberLake and Mila Kunis released last year. I mean really dude, what is this?

I am going with 0.5/5 for Ankit Uttam's 'Thirty Year Old Virgin'. That half a mark for having the guts to publish such a book and hoping that no one will notice it! 

August 18, 2012

Book Review - 89 : Bala Takes The Plunge

Author: Melvin Durai
Publisher: Hachette India

Bala dreams of making Tamil films and directing his favourite actor, Rajnikanth – a dream that leads him, naturally, to study engineering in college. This earns him his dad’s approval and the opportunity to export himself to America. Well, as Director of Design at FlexIt Inc., thinking up new ways to help Americans shed the extra weight around their middles and in their wallets, he is at least some kind of director. Bala loves America, and America, it seems, loves him even more. 

He has everything he needs to be happy: a green card, a satellite dish to watch cricket, and a companion to share his home – albeit one with a very limited vocabulary. But he is now less than a year away from the big 3–0 (even closer in India with the time difference) and if he doesn't act fast, he might have to settle for whichever bride his Amma chooses. So begins Bala’s quest for romance as he meets both American and Indian women, some who are too old, others too young, and yet others just too stuck up. Will he ever find someone just right for him – and good enough to inherit his mother’s Corelle dishes?

Melvin has been a humourist blogger and columnist for a long time and if you have been aware of his writing style, you will not be surprised at the jokes by twisting the english language, making fun of the rituals and traditions of South Indian families and all the more, the crude in-your-face repartees about body parts. Does that made me laugh? Most of the times, yes. At other times, humour fall flat.

The writer takes inspiration from his own work and even though some of the lines/paragraphs are straight away lifted from his own columns, it still almost is seamlessly incorporated in the narrative. Melvin takes the universal theme of arrange marriage and set it in the context of a socially inept and sexually frustrated South Indian male. There is very little structure or a concrete story here, what keeps the book going despite of these flaws is the witty and almost, amusing dialogues.

There are cheesy lines and PJ kind of jokes butted in, but then the book is not for the purists in any case. It makes fun of homosexuality and feminists; It tickles ribs at politicians, cricketers, administrators and journalists. What brings the book down is the last 30 odd pages where it acquires strangely serious tone as Bala decides to take marriage vows. It comes out of the blue and looks unconvincing and a tad, contrived.

I am going with 3.5/5 for Melvin Durai's 'Bala takes the Plunge'. Save out for that cop-out climax, the book is a laugh riot waiting to be explored. Don't judge it by purity standards, just for the humour quotient and an intention to have hearty laughs on a lazy Sunday afternoon. 

August 15, 2012

Book Review - 88 : Two Fates

Author: Judy Balan
Publisher: Westland Publications

Two fates follows the lives of Deepika Sundar, a Tamilian, and Rishabh Khanna, a Punjabi, who after a long courtship period gets married. Two years down the line, they are fed up of each other and looking for a divorce. Things turn interesting when their families are more bonded than they ever thought to be. It is one happy family and telling them about seperation plans is a tough nut to crack. What follows next is a mad scamper of dealing with in-laws, sorting out differences between the couple and finding that hidden love streak.

A parody on Chetan Bhagat's semi-autobiographical '2 States', the humour in the book is not the LOL-variety but enough to keep you engaged, and it helps that the author give you little time to dwell on that fact. The jokes come flying at you from all directions, and it's hard not to break into smiles when every family member participates in the silliness. Considering it is only around  200 odd pages long, it is a quick time-pass which flies but never soars.

The biggest flaw lie in its cardboard caricaturist characters, each of them straight out of those Indian soaps and none of them have even a single bone of genuine pathos. Each of them provides OTT moments and quite obviously, none of them seems to have common sense. In the spirit of parody writing, all this seems fine but when things start becoming unnecessary melodramatic and to state the most obvious, filmy, you know exactly how it will end.

There is another problem with the basic premise. The couple has a dating period of 5 years before marriage and 2 years after taking the vows. None of the qualities seems to have developed after the marriage time period, then why the sudden discontentment? In a way, that can be attributed towards boredom in marriage, but then the material and scope is too thin to delve this subject at any level of seriousness.

I am going with 3/5 for Judy Balan's 'Two Fates'. The writing is filled with tongue-in-cheek humour and there are great finishes to each chapter. But look deeply, and you will find the shallow sea waiting to be explored in terms of content.Don't read with too many expectations and probably you will not be disappointed.

August 11, 2012

Notes on Diptakirti Chaudhari's 'Kitnay Aadmi Thay?'

Author: Diptakirti Chaudhari
Publisher: Westland Publications

Kitnay Aadmi thay is like a wet dream for any Bollywood movies trivia collector. It has little structure and even lesser logic, but that’s all the more reason why it is so much fun in the first place – just like our own Hindi movies. Of course, the book is not for every literature lover but then when you can guess a Bollywood fan taste. So the narrative pretty much takes you through the last 60 odd years of movies, filling with nuggets which are hard to ignore or resist.

What was the name of the film they were shooting in Rangeela? What was the Amul hoarding when Shahenshah released? Who has the longest-winning streak in Filmfare awards? Did Johnny Walker get his name from the whiskey or was it the other way round? Who will star in Bajirao Mastani when it finally gets made?

The book gives factual, entirely useless and mostly unknown information of Bollywood. Most of this information will be not new for hard core movie buffs, but when compiled in a chapter form with examples thrown in from over 60 years of watching movies, it is unbridled joy.  Lists like Shortest and longest names of movies, movies within movies, favourite or most famous filmi pets are weird, yet reconfirms the fact why we love watching movies in the first place - to have fun. To garner interest. To live again.

There are sections for the portrayal of Parsis, Punjabis, the South Indians and the Bengalis in Bollywood movies which i immensely enjoyed in the book. There is another section for regional actors who made in big in Bollywood, and those that didn’t, followed by the lists of actors who came up on their own without filmi-backgrounds and then there are star kids who made it big and those that didn’t. You can read about the influence of a myriad of fields on Bollywood in another section and that's when you start feeling the method in the madness of this book.

You will still come across situations where you'll feel some of the lists are incomplete and that's my only concern.Having read the book, the only question which remains unsolved is how to keep the book updated in the future editions. The author does not intend to do so and insist that the readers themselves will keep adding to it. It may be a novel idea to keep the readers interested but in my view it needs to be in sync with times. That's probably the only way out to keep the book fresh and in mind of readers.

I am going with 3.5/5 for Diptakirti Chaudhari's 'Kitnay Aadmi Thay'. Read it to enjoy the fun, mad ride of Bollywood. There is a studious feel to the whole book but if you are a big Bollywood fan like me, it is highly unlikely you will be bored for a minute. As they say, let the picture begin!

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July 25, 2012

Book Review - 87 : The Terrorist

Publisher: Penguin Metro Reads
Author:  Juggi Bhasin

The Terrorist by Juggi Bhasin is a fast-paced, adrenaline pumping ride which stays just a bit longer than you would have ideally liked it to be, but till it stays it is worth every word. It moves at the rate of knots, not giving you many moments to think about and finishes with a thrilling climax which is sad and destructive in equal proportions.

The Terrorist tells the tale of Suvir and Murad, both numb with the pain of having lost their loved ones, choose their different paths. Both are victims of circumstances, both numb with the pain of having lost their loved ones and choose to do things differently. While one crosses the border and becomes the most dreaded of terrorists, the other joins the Special Forces. Their face-off is a fight to death as one is out to carry out a major terrorist operation in Delhi and the other has been specially called in to foil the attack.

The research and descriptions of all the places - be it Srinagar, Dehradun or Delhi is etched out with near perfection. I particularly enjoyed the passages of the narrative taking place in Old Delhi and its various by lanes. They are done with minimum fuss and takes you right in the center of the action.

With a Ghajini style cover, the novel does not shy away in going the details of the inhuman treatment met out to the religious group or even showing the sexual exploitation of the same. No doubt it is written with an intention of turning into a Bollywood film, it is only because the settings and situations are complex and written with deft hand, the author comes out with flying colours and give us a novel worth reading.

The complete terrorist plan of having a 1993-Mumbai blast kind of scenario replicated in various parts of Delhi is exciting and terrifying at the same time. Considering how easily these terrorists fit into our society before carrying out the barbaric act even though not new, but is quite fascinating to read specially with those elaborate set-up scenes and detailing of their planning activities. 

There are few stereotypes here, for example: The conversion of a unemployed, ill-treated and sexually abused Muslim man had to become terrorist. What else, some would say. Some of the other supporting characters are not developed fully and too many instances of 'power' talk does get monotonous by the end of the novel.

But you tend to overlook these small niggles in the brisk pace of the novel. So considering it is nearly 500 pages long, you do stay in for the final act to actually see how it will all unfold. I am going with 4/5 for Juggi Bhasin's 'The Terrorist'. A first book in the trilogy, there is promise of more blood and gore, all in the best form of the word. Don't miss it!

July 11, 2012

Change of Coordinates, Delhi to Pune

Ok, i know this is around 10 days late. But yes, i have moved from Delhi to Pune. Those who know me well, you can stop rolling your eyes. Yes, indeed i have left Delhi and moved to somewhere else in India.

As expected, lot of things has happened. Here is a little gist :

Resigned from my previous job with one-day notice period. I know it sounds crazy but i think i planned and managed the work-load well. Tried completing most of the projects on hand or at least leave them in a "logical" state. Most of the people were shocked and i quite liked it.

Had couple of weeks off before i joined here in Pune. Read around 10 books. Slept like a Dog. Had a mini vacation. Caught up with old friends and regretted it immediately. Shopped around till my credit card limit was exhausted. In short, advice to everyone - take a break in between jobs. There is nothing like recharging your batteries to full.

It's again back to living alone and doing the daily chores. Reminds me of MBA days in Australia. But it is not that bad and kinda liking it so far. I think it is much easier here in India since things are provided at platter and domestic help is easily available. Crazy work and travel schedule though is taking its toll.

Weather has been awesome so far with monsoon setting in, a welcome breather from the scorching summer heat of Delhi. It was burning there, it is raining here. I am liking it though i must say it is getting monotonous having rainy or non-shady days all the time.

So, there you are. Little short nuggets from my life so far here. Will post in more as we go along, and will be back soon with more writings. This reminds me, i need a label for Pune Posts. Pour in your suggestions!

PS: I am going back to Delhi tomorrow for a conference for couple of days. Don't even feel like i came here. But anything for Mom-cooked food, you see!

July 9, 2012

Book Review - 86 : You Never Know When You'll Get Lucky!

Author : Priya Narendra
Publisher : Fingerprint

When Kajal, a sassy never-afraid-to-make-an-idiot-of-herself-in-public copywriter, finally decides to put her love-life on hold and focus on that long-overdue promotion, fate mysteriously throws her way a stream of eligible bachelors: from Mr Could-Be-Right who lives in another city, to a reputed lech of a neighbor who becomes her knight in shining armour, from a hunky researcher intent on proposing, to a childhood-nemesis-turned-amorous-pursuer.

Add to the mess a client who is a pain in the ass, a crucial ad campaign for a brand of condoms, disapproving middle-class parents and, to top it all, the most romantic rainstorm of the decade and Kajal seems to be no longer in control of anything! But luck has its own sweet way of dealing with troubles. After all, you never know when you’ll get lucky!

I must confess upfront that I have never been a great fan of chick-lits mainly because most of the authors tend to get all so emotional and drown their characters in sympathies that in the end the narrative is devoid of all the fun they might be having. You Never Know When You'll Get Lucky! by Priya Narendra is a breath of fresh air in a clouded and muddled array of numerous chick-lit authors where feminism is turned into male bashing, independence comes at the cost of relationships and romance is so drowsy you feel like puking. The charm of this book though lies in the fact that it keeps the over-the-top moments well out of the narrative and brings in surprises which linger on well after you have finished reading the book.

The story is fast paced, and even though it maintains delicate balance between personal and professional lives of Kajal, ultimately you are bowled over by the sensitivity with which author uses minimal expressions and words to convey the feelings of almost all the characters. There are enough LOL moments which will make you smile but also intelligently interspersed are the quick-burst moments of self introspection and nervous energy. I particularly enjoyed the portions where Kajal is in two minds about Mr. Right and how desperately she wanted to work out this relationship instead of being in two different cities.

My only grudge is the fact that there are too much cliches when it comes to Kajal's parent - their dialogues, their reactions (or rather over-reactions) and their ambitions. Apart from this, the final act of both lovers coming together has been wrapped up with such ease you wonder if the writer was running short of words or time or both. The gay character redemption in front of the parents has been dealt a little too easily in the climax so as the meteoric rise of Kajal in the advertising world.

But keep these nitpicking apart, you have an absolute perfect chick-lit in your hands for a weekend read. I am going with 3.5/5 for Priya Narendra's 'You Never Know When You'll Get Lucky!'. It is humorous and witty in equal measures. It is packaged well and will keep you hooked most of the time in the narrative. Even though it is predictable in parts, you will not feel time and energy wasted at all. For how many chick-lits by Indian authors you can say the same in these times?

July 8, 2012

Book Review - 85 : The Fallen Love

Author : Rashmi Singh
Publisher: Pigeon Books

Not wanting Madhuri had started drifting with the song, stretching and reraching out for the remote of the Television with her right hand to switch it off. The song "Baby don't leave me, I remember all the memories-I remember the name...that was calling my name-stary with me Baby-when the lights go down I am drowning-please help me I know one day you will feel the same-baby when the lights go down...," had started casting its musical, magical spell making her unknowingly feel the words and getting emotionally entangled in them........

That was one moment when Rohan lost his sanity. All his life he had craved for love. His Ma, Shilpi, Radhika and now Madhuri.." No now I am not going to lose Madhuri. Love has always played hide and seek with me but now it is time for me to snatch love from life. And something reverberated in his mind-unknown voice-"Go Rohan Go..If you don't snatch now then never-never Rohan-Never-You'll never get the love of Go get the power-get your love-It is your love Rohan-Yours! This time don't let greed overrule true love-don't let sex subjugate the timid! Go snatch it or else again the demons will snatch from you!" The voice was constantly creating havoc on hi senses......

Exploring the life of its main protagonist Rohan, through the various ladies in his life, the novel alienates the readers by cramming in too much to digest in one go. It doesn't help that the author uses analeptic references all through the novel to tell the narrative, allowing very little time for readers to invest into these characters or their emotions.However, the author neatly checks off all the concepts of love, lust and sex across various strata of society. The pace is fast and there is a sense of urgency which is prevalent all through.

Any reader who is looking for any kind of newness are surely like to be disappointed. The language lacks subtlety and most of the lines feels overwritten and laboured, both at the same time. Even though it is commendable that the author tries to bring in certain taboo topic of Indian society including sexual perversion, but it is mostly done in such off-coloured and heavy handed language that i failed to recognize the real need for having those particular plot-points. You can't have a sub-plot inserted just because it makes the book a masala, filmy-kind entertaining book. It is criminal and IMHO, the biggest flaw.

If you can get pass these flaws and looking for a light, easy read, this could well be your Sunday read. I am going with 2.5/5 for Rashmi Singh's 'The Fallen Love'. Reading this book is like being to your favourite pub to have a good time but returning home with a muddled mind. Give it a chance if you are a fan of exploring old wine in the old bottle.

June 26, 2012

Book Review - 84 : Skid Marks of Logic

Author: Divya Diana Dias
Publisher: Frog Books

Skid Marks of Logic is a collection of three not-so-short stories, each of them dealing with sexual awakening and the tryst with sensual touch. The author takes female protagonists to illustrate these stories against the traditional and sexually oppressive Indian society. All the lead characters want to shatter the chains that society has bound them with and eventually, win the war that rages within them, once and for all. Will they succeed? Or destiny has some other plans in store for them?

Ostrich deals with Payal who is stuck with a sad life (and even sadder people) in Ahmedabad. In between her strangely quiet ways and shy demeanour, she longs for a guy who can take her away from a life of drudgery and enforced hypocrisy. She meets Xerxus at a sangeet function and can't get him out of her mind. Thereby, starts a journey to find ways to be with Xerxus and cajoling him to do the unthinkable. Relying solely on hide-and-seek gimmicks, the author creates a believable world of a middle class family in a Tier-2 city. The Catch-me-and-kiss-me game goes on a little too long for my liking and at that time you are bound to feel frustrated at the lack of any common sense by most of the characters. It also a tad unbelievable how no one from the family ever catch Payal's hidden activities nor any other student bust this seduction balloon. But if you can overlook these fallacies, there is fun to be had. The lines are quirky and the narrative relies solely on the camaraderie of the two main characters both of which comes unscathed when it comes to making the sparks flew.

Friends with Benefits even though not new in concept, puts a fresh spin to such similar tales. Danielle is a 21-year-old-virgin who has never dated or kissed a guy. Seeking ways to satisfy her curious void, she resorts to surreptitiously writing erotica which is naughty and fantastic at the same time. Things get steamy when Satya, her best friend reads the blog post and proposes a mutually beneficial scheme. I particularly enjoyed the sexual frankness between Danielle and her parents, latter of whom seem surprised but still goes with her choice of life. The final sexual escapade with Satya even though stretched to unmanageable proportions still titillates enough to keep you hooked. You are bound to get restless with the constant chatter and few flat dialogues in the narrative, but it wraps up with a delicious surprise which is irresistible and funny.

Mergers and Acquisitions is the story of a forced entrepreneur, Janvi who is trying to manage the company her dad has left for her.  Then an employee goes behind her back and commits a crime that could put the company at risk. There is a demand for vindication by the culprits but will it be so easy for a crime which is not-so-easy? I felt underwhelmed with the development of these characters, none of them felt someone i can emotionally invest. The concept, an affair between an employee and the boss, is centuries old and was not elevated through smart writing as it was evident in the first two stories. In the end, lines felt laboured, over-written and the end can be seen as far as apocalypse.

I am going with 3/5 for Divya Diana Das's ' Skid Marks of Logic'. Just like the intriguing title, it does provide occasional flashes of brilliance. Most of the stories based on cliches elevates themselves by smart writing at places. I just wished it was more compact and judiciously edited. Nevertheless, a competent debut by the writer from whom we can hope to read more in the future.