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September 29, 2013

Book Review - 135 : Confessions of a Private Tutor




Author : Vikram Mathur
Publisher : Rupa Publications

Confessions of a Private tutor outlines the adventures of a young boy forced to give teaching lessons to school kids due to sudden demise of his father in order to support his family. He needs more money and the easy way out takes him to sleeping with kids' voluptuous mothers, willing to be satisfied with our tutor's charms. He starts taking more risks and his misadventures ultimately result in going buck naked (quite literally!) and start his life again.

Problem with this confession series is that it hardly provides any character building and hopping from point to point without feeling the need to stop and provide some basic facts. How the tutor is able to impress the mothers? What make him so irresistible to them? How he always gets overlooked by their husbands and other relatives? Most of these questions remain unanswered and the focus remains solely on the action between sheets. In the end, this hurt the book more than you can think of.

There are certain poignant moments in the book like the tutor struggling with getting the sister marriage finalized while busy minting money by giving sex sessions or the one in which he falls short of expectation first time he is paid for sex. But these are hardly the reasons to take pain in going through this book. I am going with 1.5/5 for Vikram Mathur's 'Confessions of a Private Tutor'. Its short but definitely not sweet or spicy.

September 28, 2013

Book Review - 134 : Confessions of a Call Centre worker





Author : Kris Yonzone
Publisher : Rupa Publications

Confession series is not a novel concept, it has been exploited multiple times more so in the West but it could have been interesting account if the author tried to concentrated more on the life of a call center but instead what we get are long and laborious passages of central protagonist's love life. If those portions was even half bit interesting, it would have made the day but unfortunately nothing of that sort happens.

It does have the intermittent dose of regular call center daily operations - frustrated bosses, angry customers, rotten food, insane workload, night shifts, usage of contraceptives, clogged toilets and drowsy eyes but does not provide anything new or groundbreaking as far as the narrative goes. Short at just around 130 pages, the writing style is too simplistic and does not get into any kind of complications you may expect.

I am going with 1.5/5 for Kris Yonzone's 'Confessions of a call centre worker'. It is boring and hardly provides anything new on call centres or about people working there. This book make Chetan Bhagat's 'One night at call centre' gold in comparison!

September 27, 2013

Book Review - 133 : Beaten by Bhagath




Author : S.V. Divvaakar
Publisher : Frog Books / Leadstart Publishing

Beaten by Bhagath! - A tale of Two writers by S.V. Divvaakar is amusing and frustrating in equal parts. Touted to be an insider and outsider look on the publishing industry in India, it portrays the trials and tribulations of an author trying to pen down his first novel. Pushed in jest by his lady boss, the central protagonist BB sets off on his quest to write a book that's better than India's greatest writer Dr. Bhagath's blockbusters. As the destiny would have it, BB and Bhagath have been classmates are friends at college only to be thrown apart with routine of career and worldly services.

Divvaakar takes us deep into the mind and histrionics of a writer right from ignoring his family to being elusive and a responsibility shrinker. He exposes the reader to the real and the fake publishers, their demands, tantrums and another round of histrionics. We realize that finding a publisher is just not enough in this age of Google. The author research in these portions is pretty evident and credit must be given to weave them in the narrative of the story which is humorous and ironic at the same time.

The writer has another round of happenings and misadventures with promoting the book right from managing a guest for the book launch to Facebook likes. We also get insights into the e-Retail stores vs. bookstores vs. chain bookstores stocking the book, the distribution maze and the real book-selling story all through BB’s adventures in the Indian publishing industry. The story after this whole roundabout sequence heads into the future with the advent and market capture of e-Books. And with it turns around BB fortunes as a wordsmith culminating into the big finale but quite unlike the one BB or his sexy boss may have imagined.

Problem is that even at just 190 odd pages, it is still long and there are few portions which could have cut down as they add very little to the story. College pranks involving BB and Bhagath does nothing more than provide a cheap redemption to each of the characters in the climax after having ignored each other for ages. The writing is witty and author maintains a decent pace but there are few portions where pace slackens when the author tries to concentrate a little too much on creating a melodramatic space between the characters. I particularly found the experiences of BB a little too over the top and considering his foolish antics, he do deserve to get the wrath he eventually endures when things go a bit wrong.

I am going with 3/5 for S.V. Divvaakar's 'Beaten by Bhagath'. It does succeed in providing an inside (and mostly correct) look into the world of Indian publishing. I wish it was a little shorter and had fewer OTT moments in its narrative. However, if you are a budding writer and planning to write your first novel, it may not be a bad idea to pick this one for your reading and get a wholesome new perspective on publishing.


[The book was received as part of Reviewers Program on The Tales Pensieve ]

September 26, 2013

Quick Notes on a book about Tantric Sex


[The book review is done on the request of Jaico Publishing House]


Rating : 3 / 5
Publisher : Jaico Publishing House
Authors : Mark A. Michaels & Patricia Johnson

Tantric Sex Made simple by Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson reveals 54 tips to deepen intimacy & heighten pleasure during the act of love. The authors have been teaching Tantra since 1999 and thus, comes with a bag full of tricks on this topic proving that Tantric lovemaking doesn't have to take hours. In this fun and mostly easy-to-use (well illustrated) beginner's guide to authentic Tantra may just take your sex life from ordinary to extraordinary. Good thing, anyone can practice these tips and are easily understood. Along with fundamental principles of Tantric sex, you can discover amazing ways to prolong arousal, satisfy your partner, maximize bliss, and reach higher states of consciousness.

Divided into 54 chapters and 9 parts, it is fun and educating in the best form of the word. I liked the fact that subtly it makes a point about sexual attitudes in today's society and strong suggestions about maintaining an healthy sex life without inhibitions or boredom. There is an engaging tone to the perspective of sex mentioned through the narrative which avoids theoretical overload and teaches the technique at the most basic level. it helps that authors maintain a fairly humorous and relaxed approach to Tantra, never overwhelming its audience with impractical suggestions.

Tantric sex has been practiced for a long time in India through spiritual gurus and religious preachers and it is sad that such a primitive form of sex rarely gets a mention in the mainstream with the focus more on hardcore stuff. Not a big fan of self-help books, this one did piqued interest in me as a reader in exploring the new form and arguably, the correct techniques for it. It also comes with real and drawn illustrations which help in understanding the authors point of view. Overall, a different way to spend your weekend with a book. Try it out!

September 23, 2013

Short Notes on 'My Beloved's MBA Plans'


[This book review is done on the request of Srishti Publishers]



Author : Disha Chhabra
Publisher : Srishti Publishers & Distributors

Rating : 2.5/5

My Beloved's MBA Plans - Crossroads of love and ambitions  by Disha Chhabra is a collection of short stories with a common thread running through all of them - How much you are willing to give to fulfill your MBA dream? Would  you be willing to give up a cushy job and start from scratch? Would you be willing to stay apart from your spouse for the duration of MBA? Would you be willing to uproot your family from a well-settled life?

With interviews conducted with fellow students of IIM-Calcutta, the book consists of short stories but based on real life people and their sacrifices to get a MBA degree. Few stories does make a strong impact - How a couple nurture a relationship when the lady discovers pregnancy during the MBA. Or how a couple gets married right at the beginning of MBA and spends an unusual honeymoon. Or how a young lady overcome the tragic loss of her father because of cancer before embarking on MBA. Most of the stories are human and does ring an emotional side to all of us. More so, since the problems are borne out of practical situations of life and genuine career decisions. 

With strong EQ stories at the core, the author does come flat at certain times specially when there is a strong reluctance to delve into the personal issues of the couple. At multiple points during these stories, there is a resistance not to divulge too much information about these couples'. I wanted to know more about them, but the writing did not provided me that and that's where one would feel a little let down. There is too much sugar coating in the relationships portrayed here and it dilutes the tension which these relationships must have faced in those critical situations. As they say, fizz is missing in the Cola. It is big on ambition but a little short on content. It flies, but never soars. Read it, if you have faced a similar situation in your career or facing currently.

Disclosure : I have studied a semester of engineering with the author.

September 21, 2013

Notes on APJ Abdul Kalam's 'My Journey'


[This book review is done on the request of Rupa Publications]



Author : APJ Abdul Kalam
Publisher : Rupa Publications

Rating : 3 / 5

My Journey - Transforming Dreams into Actions by APJ Abdul Kalam portrays a life of extraordinary determination, courage, perseverance and the desire to excel. From a small boygrowing up in Rameswaram, to becoming the country’s eleventh President, it traverses through a series of anecdotes and profiles. Dr Kalam looks back on key moments in his past—some small and some momentous—and tells the reader how each of them inspired him profoundly. With warmth and affection, he talks about the people who left a deep impression on him as he was growing up and as an adult, and the lessons he drew from his interactions with them.

He describes those who have been the closest to him—his father with his deep love of God, his mother and her great kindness, his mentors who helped shape his thoughts and outlook. There are heart-warming accounts here of his childhood years spent in a small town by the Bay of Bengal and the many struggles and sacrifices made on the path to becoming a scientist and then the President of India. Multiple incidents stood out - like the one where he found his mother to be starved when he himself ate a little too much or how he managed to  help his uncle in the newspaper business. All these small incidents portrays a slice of life and ultimately, contributed in his personality.

Dr Kalam also writes about the times when failure and dejection nearly overtook him and how he prevailed over those obstacles by drawing strength from books and spirituality. My most favourite moment is when his professor told him to rework on a project over the weekend and he pushed himself to get the work done. It shows the man's determination to his craft. Also, he was desperate to pursue a career in flying but could not because of various constraints. He still rose above these failures to be what he ultimately become and even at the age of 80+ he is still a role model to savour and respect.

What is more impressive is that he doesn't inundated his readers with complicated jargon or language, rather he keeps things simple and maintains a humble approach. Not too long at around 150 pages, it can be easily read within couple of hours and will leave you with a motivated feeling. Go for it!

September 19, 2013

Book Review - 132 : A Maverick Heart





Author : Ravindra Shukla
Publisher : Frog Books

A Maverick Heart : Between Love and Life is a difficult book to like, more so when the author maintains a narrative which is agonizingly boring and border line ridiculous. Through three characters - Rahul, Richita and Neerav, students of IIT-B the author tries to bind through their life graphs. Their problems are genuine and mostly practical, their impulsive decisions understandable and there is certain growth of characters which is appreciated as a reader.But all these subtle nuances are buried under a whopping 380 odd pages which is too long by any stretch of imagination for a story of this magnitude. It definitely needed to be short and coherent and the best bits are trapped under long stretches where nothing of significance happen in the story. 

When narrating the central theme, the author does make some pertinent points regarding racism in US work places, cultural divide, recession in early 2000s and burden of carrying an IIT tag all along the life. These portions, even though poorly edited still are the best bits in a long and convoluted novel which loses its shine and as we go along, the underlying message somewhere as well. The author eventually grapples with so many unnecessary sub-plots of NGOs, RTIs, social activism and relief operations that you feel like reading from the pages of a diary rather than a book trying to make some sense.

I can understand that this story is based out of real characters and their honest motivations, but poor editing and grammatical structure at all places absolutely mar those sincere intentions. The writing style is easy and usually maintains a brisk pace but inundated with too many details ultimately let it down.

I am going with 2/5 for Ravindra Shukla's 'A Maverick Heart'. Leaving its noble intentions apart, its a hard slog for its audience. Read it if you must.

[The following review is part of "The Reader Cosmos" book review program]