Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul II

1st PUBLISHED: 1998


Jennifer Love Hewwit (of I Know What You Did Last Summer fame), Wil Horneff (Born to be Wild), Andrew Keegan (Ten Things I Hate About You) and many more. 101 MORE Stories of life, love and learning.

ISBN: 1-55874-616-1

GENRE: Teen Fiction


Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kerberger's latest batch focuses on love, friendship and tough stuff, along with some great teen-told tales of learning lessons, making a difference and growing up. You'll find no adults preaching to you about what you should or shouldn't do. Instead, this book is full of teens who share their experiences on learning to accept life, becoming the best person you can be, being happy with who you are, and loving yourself- no matter what. These stories will show you that no matter how difficult your situation may seem, you can make it through the tough times; and that no matter how lonely you may feel, you are never alone.


Things are just things- they have no power to hurt or heal. Only people can do that. And we can all choose to be hurt or healed by the people who love us.


This edition of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul has 101 fictional as well as real-life stories and poems written by teenagers and young adults, categorized into 8 sections- on relationships, friendship, love and kindness, tough stuff, family, learning lessons, making a difference, and growing up.

I know that we all inevitably tend to be very skeptical about so called 'self-help' books; and people do have conflicting views regarding the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. However, these books actually do make a very good read. They're definitely not preachy, and it depends from person to person, whether they actually find these books helpful or not. But, rest assured, they're all moving, and usually fun to read.

The anecdotes and poems in the section on friendship are particularly good in this collection, as are the ones on making a difference. While certain stories are not exactly exceptional, others are a real treat. Some, like The Hero of the 'Hood (about the childhood of Mike Powell) and Donna & Claudia speak of courage, and undying friendship that stands the test of time. Jennifer Love Hewwit writes about the experience of meeting a fan, a young girl suffering from cancer, whose dying wish was to spend a day with her.

These are the various perspectives of different people dealing with similar experiences, good and bad. While some talk about what they've suffered through, others share their happier moments. If you happen to chance upon one of these books, do give them a try. It will be time well spent.

RATING: 3.5/5


PRICE: Rs.295/- (Flipkart)

Pride and Prejudice

AUTHOR: Jane Austen
Genre: Novel / Fiction / Classic

EXCERPT: " It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. "
SWARNALI SPEAKS: The excerpt given is the first line of the book. There has hardly been a better example of  sarcasm and irony in literature. Jane Austen has been accused of writing only about the limited homely life of the people of England and having ignored other important social topics that others during her time focussed on. But I believe no one can beat her in her field. She is amazing when it comes to to the household, the daily lives of people.
Jane Austen creates some very interesting characters in her book Pride and Prejudice (which has been my favourite book for ages,I read it every Christmas :P). 
Elizabeth Bennet is intelligent,smart, brave and witty. no wonder Darcy is hopelessly in love with her. I don't know of a more interesting character,every word that comes out of her mouth is worth being quoted.
Darcy,ah can we forget the famous lines said by him (*drools*)- "Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased." Can we forget the long long long letter her wrote to Elizabeth? Okay,he is everything a girl wants (yes me included :P).
Apart from these two, Mr. Bennet , Charlotte and Mr.Collins interest me the most,because they seem the most real to me.
The narrative is in the third person but basically tells the story from Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet's point of view. The plot follows a plain complexity and resolution with a happy ending but is an amazing read. Has one of the best and wittiest lines any book has.

MY RATING: 4.5 / 5

To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

1ST PUBLISHED: 1960. This book was instantly successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old.

ISBN: 0-09-941978-5

GENRE: Literary Fiction/ Modern Classic


"Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em. But remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this enchanting classic- a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humor the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is picked by the stamina of one man's struggle of justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much...


#Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

# "It's not necessary to tell all you know. It's not lady-like; in the second place, folks don't like to have somebody around knowing more than they do. It aggravates 'em. You're not gonna change any of them by talkin' right, they've got to want to learn themselves, and when they don't want to learn there's nothin' you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language."


To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those books that leave a lifelong impression. Set in the fictional town of Maycomb, this novel has two plots that go together. Little Scout and Jem, her elder brother, live with their widowed father Atticus, a well respected and able lawyer.

However, when Atticus decides to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman (the daughter of a social outcast, Bob Ewell) the children have to face a lot of abuse and accusations from their prejudiced friends and neighbors, something they'd so far been unaccustomed to. A heart-stopping courtroom drama follows that has just as awful an impact on the reader as the young protagonist.

While this aspect of the story is undoubtedly disturbing, the episodes revolving around Boo Radley are fascinating, and ultimately heart warming. Arthur Radley, nicknamed 'Boo', is a man who has lived in the spooky house down the lane for as long as anyone can remember- and hasn't stepped out in years. Naturally, a number of rumors erupt, adding fuel to the children's imagination.

One summer, when their friend Dill, who is new in town, persuades Jem and Scout to try and make Boo come out of the house so that they can see him for real, they find themselves drawn into an unimaginable adventure that changes their lives forever. This is a remarkable story about seeking humanity in human beings...despite the violence and prejudice that is so deep rooted in society.


PRICE: Rs.378/- (Flipkart)


The Help by Kathryn Stockett



Pages: 451
Genre: Novel
First Published: 2009
*This is the author's first book*

Its Mississippi of the 1960's and the society in America is transforming. In the heart of Jackson, live 3 strong women, who must contribute to this change, in their own way. Through Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, Kathryn Stockett creates three wonderfully poised characters who tell you a moving story about unsaid things and uncrossed lines.

Nightflier Speaks:
Disclaimer : I have watched the movie and the characters portrayed by the actors have left an impression on me. I may see the characters through my movie eyes. Despite the fact that they are equally strong and wonderful in words. Also, these days I am quite fascinated by the transformation of a book into a movie. That is somehow influencing the books I pick.

If you have read 'To kill a mockingbird' and adore it, then you will immediately come to love this book. Its hard to resist that southern language and accent. Plus, when a book talks about fundamental rights and our ability to judge or not judge someone as human, it has to strike a chord with you.

The Help, as the title says, revolves around 'maids' who helped raise the kids in white families across Jackson, Mississippi. When entire America was buzzing with the color revolution, it was difficult for people in Jackson to not get affected. The story told through the eyes of Skeeter (the educated white woman), Aibilleen (the awesomely strong 'help') and Minny (the sassiest of them all 'help') evolves into something bigger, when it portrays various relationships through the helps' eyes. It also gives a very amusing perspective of how the 'helps' view the home/lady they are serving. 

The book has a lot of 'woman' characters, mean, kind, racist, confused, sweet, naive. But the men in Stockett's book act just like fillers. It can be justified by the fact that this is a pretty domestic premise the book is handling, but one cannot help and wonder about the what if's or unnecessary characters. That was my only problem with the book.

Otherwise it is a pretty delightful read. Narrated in the hearty southern American language (yes I know I am saying this again, only because I love it so much!) telling a tale which is pretty universal and timeless.

Rating: 4/5
Price: Rs. 553 (flipkart)

The Year I Turned 16- Deeptha Khanna

1st PUBLISHED: 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0-14333-017-2

ISBN-10: 0-14333-017-9

GENRE: Teen Fiction


Vinita Sharma is a feisty teenager with a talent for writing, an out-sized crush on Shah Rukh Khan and the low ambition of marrying a rich guy (if Shah Rukh is taken, that is). Her brother Vinay is grappling with overactive hormones, IIT entrance exams and cricket practice, while Vinita is busy with her motley crew of friends- the angelic Naina, Jaggu the house clown, Ashley the inscrutable, and the bold and seductive Gargi.

In a matter of weeks, Vinita's world changes radically. Her home-bound mother decides to set up a business, Naina and Vinay start to make goggle-eyes at each other, Jaggu examines his own shameful attitudes and Gargi reveals a dreadful secret that could destroy her whole life. Into this simmering emotional cauldron falls an American dude- the dashing Marcus- the boyfriend Vinita always dreamed of. As she swings wildly between her traditional way of thinking and what she really wants, Vinita takes crucial decisions that will surprise them all- most of all, herself.

Can Vinita stay upright in a topsy-turvy world fraught with far reaching changes? Find out in this breezy candid diary.


It really is curious that they call it M.P.B.C., as if that's all we learn. We do have another subject- it's called 'English'. But no one mentions it. As if it's unimportant. It's not! It's the most fun of all classes.


It may not be one of it's kind, but The Year I Turned 16 is definitely a book that will stay on your mind because it remains loyal to the teenage drama that an average Indian girl generally goes through. Interestingly, instead of the hype regarding social networking sites and the latest modern gadgets, over here we find the protagonist and her friends going gaga over the miracle of color television, MTV and The Oprah Winfrey show.

Vinita is a character that one can easily come to adore- her bubbly, outgoing nature will win you over; the loving and helpful Naina is the best friend anyone would love to have; Jaggu adds to the comic element but also helps bring certain things into perspective. Marcus- do I have to say the words?- is Mr.Perfect with his drop dead gorgeous looks and gentlemanly manners. Ashley is someone who takes some time to grow on you; I did end up admiring him for being who he is, but it's still kind of hard to digest the fact that Ashley is the name of a guy.

The story basically revolves around Vinita's crush on Marcus and her cute- and sometimes enormously embarrassing- attempts to impress him. Then there are the day-to-day activities of the characters which will bring back memories of school. (In fact, some of Vinita's short essays written in class are also included.) However, a number of issues are also focused upon: peer pressure, eve-teasing, the problems associated with balancing the time devoted to a woman's career with the time given to her family. Gargi's secret is possibly the most worrisome.

All of it is taken into account in such a manner that it influences you without really depressing you. In fact, it seems you touch you more closely because at a certain point, this will cease to be just a story and will seem to be like a friend's diary, or even your own.

Vinita's relationship with her brother is particularly endearing, and the unexpected ending is quite pleasing. A better version of the Princess Diaries, if I may say so, this novella about an Indian girl eagerly approaching her sixteenth birthday will make a light and amusing read.

RATING: 3.5/5

PRICE: Rs.175/- (A Puffin Original)


Daughters of Arabia

AUTHOR: Jean Sasson

Genre: Autobiographical,Non-Fiction
ISBN-13: 9780553813777

NO. OF PAGES: 256 (Bantam books)
PRICE: Rs.288 (at Flipkart )

BOOK COVER SAYS: Readers of Princess Sultana's extraordinary story, princess, were gripped by her powerful indictment of women's lives behind the veil within the royal family of Saudi Arabia. now, the princess turns the spotlight on her two teenage daughters, Maha and Amani.

EXCERPT:  " Was Kareem that rare phenomenon, a Saudi husband who was gentle, virile, practical and intelligent? Had I been wrong in my assessment of his character?"

SWARNALI SPEAKS: Here is the sequel of Princess. Even after calling it a very depressing book, I couldn't help picking up the next one in the series (and am looking forward to reading the next one and all the others written by Sasson). After you have realised the person that Sultana is, we now know what her kids are like. Sultana has 3 children - Abdullah, Maha and Amani.
Each of her three children have taken different traits of their mother - Abdullah has his mother's compassion and respect for women, Maha, her mother's rebellious spirit and Amani, her intelligent mind. Like its prequel,this book also tends to be depressing but the happier parts lessen the reader's misery to some extent. The books is filled with tales of horror that a lot of readers might have been already acquainted with from real life news articles, of torture done on the female sex, on women who are brave enough to try to defy the unjust and often inhuman  laws, who are punished with cruelty unimaginable. The book also had tales of success like that of Fayza, reminding us that the ray of hope isn't extinguished and with a few noble men like Abdullah and his father Kareem (who is truly devoted to his wife Sultana and refuses to follow his mother's instructions to take another wife as his religion permits), change is truly possible, a change towards making the land a better and safer place for the oppressed.
Another very disturbing issue that was introduced was that of circumcision on women which is still practiced in several parts of the world under the name of religion. The severe form of inhumanity practiced during this process cannot be expressed in words. Other tales like that of Majed, Abdullah's cousin is a cruel reminder of the hypocrisy of the royals and the secretive acts done behind the curtains. The bargaining of beautiful women to fill the harems of old royal men,and the effect it has on the young minds like that of Ayesha and Maha is another disturbing area.
The book is a very captivating one despite the maddening cruelty described in the book. Apart from the horror tales, the book also has several entertaining anecdotes like how the young Amani decides to punish her uncle as her child mind finds just, stories of women bonding with each other and standing up for each other when one of them is unjustly treated. The book probes deep into the royal family in Saudi Arab, giving the readers a transparent view into the lives behind the curtains, providing insights into the practices and often unveiling the cruelty and misinterpretation of Islam that is rampantly carried on by corrupt religious leaders to serve their own selfish needs. The book should be read with an open mind, to stop yourself from being too swayed in any direction. The author gives one a clear untainted perspective from a princess's POV but the readers must be prepared to form their own opinions based on their own judgement from the situations described.
All the characters in the book are real but their real names have not been used to protect the princess and her family from harm.

MY RATING: 4 / 5

Collected Plays Volume 1 by Mahesh Dattani

AUTHOR : Mahesh Dattani
GENRE: Drama, Anthology
ISBN-13: 9780140293258
MRP: Rs. 508 (on flipkart)

BOOK COVER SAYS: Final Solutions, Dance Like a Man and On a Muggy Night in Mumbai have been staged to critical and public acclaim all over the country and abroad, and his radio plays, Seven Steps Around the Fire and Do the Needful, have been aired on BBC radio. The plays in this collection are prefaced by introductions, which provide fascinating insights into the plays-in-performance in the context of Indian and world theatre.
These eight plays, widely varied in thematic and stylistic content, are a tribute to the dramatic vision and skill of a man who has transformed the face of urban theatre in India.

SWARNALI SPEAKS: Okay, by now you should have realised that my love for Dattani's works have no bounds :P Don't blame me please,his works are depressingly addictive. 
So no wonder I picked up another book of his. this is more of a collection of almost all his plays including a few radio plays that were broad casted on BBC. This collection includes 8 of his plays.
My favorites apart from Bravely Fought the Queen and Tara that I already reviewed,were-
On a muggy night in Mumbai -  This is a pioneer work in Indian English drama where homosexuality was openly discussed, breaking all barriers. Dattani attempts to remove the social prejudices regarding the so called "not-so-normal" people who are a major part of our society and the reason why they are made to remain in the closet. The stigma they face  from both the society and their own group and family is severely criticized by Dattani. The tale of Prakash who is absent throughout more than half of the play, his arrival on stage and the end comes as a brilliant twist.
Dance like a Man- Dattani being himself a trained dancer in Bharatnatyam tries to bring out the prejudice our society has towards male dancer, especially the ones trained in Classical forms. We have come to the 21st century now,but our ideas are still the same orthodox one where we believe that dancing makes a man effeminate. Dattani attempts through his to eradicate this notion that art chooses you and practicing any art form does not change the person you are. There are many other issues that are raised like the responsibility of the parents regarding the future and health of their children. Is it always the mother who is in charge of taking care of the children or is it also the father who is equally responsible. The end maybe mistaken as a very misogynistic one but on a deeper level Dattani gives a very different message.

Others include Final Solutions (he received the Sahitya Akademi award for this one) and Where there is a Will. Each and every story has a surprise end,so be prepared to be shocked and I can bet,you'll never know how the story ends until you reach it. The remaining two are radio plays.


Shadow of a Dark Queen - Raymond E. Feist


Book 1 of 'The Serpentwar Saga'

ISBN - 978-0-380-72086-6
PAGES - 497
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Raymond E. Feist

BEST-SELLERS - The Riftwar Saga

SYNOPSIS - A dread darkness is descending upon a great land called Midkemia - a powerful and malevolent race of monsters that has slipped through a hole in the dimensions. And two unlikely young heroes - a bastard heir denied his birthright and an irrepressible scoundrel with a penchant for thievery - must take up arms in the struggle to protect their besieged world; two friends chosen by Destiny to stand at the fore of the battle that is to come against the gargantuan reptile army of the terrible Emerald Queen.

EXCERPT - The two soldiers motioned for the prisoners to fall in and quick-marched them out of sight. As they vanished, Foster looked at de Loungville and said, "I think its starting to work, Bobby."

De Loungville scratched his chin as he pondered. "I don't know. We'll see. But it had better. We're going south short-handed and I'd hate to have to hang this lot the day before we sail."

Foster said, "If Billy Goodwin didn't cut my throat for calling his mother a whore-she was, but he's tpuchy about it-then I think he's learning. And the way they stuck up for him."

De Loungville nodded. "Maybe you're right. Or maybe they're being clever. We'll have to see, won't we?"

Without waiting for an answer, he turned and headed back to the command building.

FL Speaks - Raymond E. Feist returns with yet another fantasy series in the world of Midkemia. The following takes place 50 years after the great battle of the 'Riftwar Saga'. And I am cursing myself for not yet completing that series.

Eric is a bastard son of the Duke of Darkmoor. Denied of his birthright, he lives with his mother in a distant locality of the region of Darkmoor. When the Duke and his half brothers arrive, Eric and his friend Roo are forced to kill one of his half-brothers after watching him rape a girl.

Chased by the kingdom, Roo and Eric flee to the city of Krondor before finally being captured and sentenced to hang. But fate has something much more terrible for the duo. In a mummer's farce, they both are spared their lives by the acting King and given a choice to go to war against an enemy never defeated before. Unsure of the future, but lucky to have their lives extended, Eric, Roo and a few others train to be mercenaries led by the son of Tomas {if you remember the Riftwar Saga, or if you even read my reviews :P} into a distant kingdom. Because of they fail, the whole world will return to the dark ages.

Calis, son of Tomas comes up with a wild plan of joining the enemy to learn their secrets while Miranda, a sorcerer, is chasing after the elusive grand wizard, Pug. Amidst the enemy, the brave souls gather intelligence but are soon chased by the Saaur's {those huge reptilian snake-like enemies} as they prepare to flee.

A striking tale of friendship, adventure, war and magic which tests the loyalties of men and those around them. Eric and Roo, condemned to death find friends among other murderous kin as the ragged band of low-lives becomes one of the most disciplined mercenaries under the, Eagle of Krondor, Calis.

The Serpent Queen's ever-growing army marches on towards the Kingdom and Callis and his crew rejoin the enemy under the guise of a different mercenary band to postpone the inevitable madness and give time to Pug and the kingdom to come up with a defense. In the chaos that ensures, the team is split up as a few find their way to safety while the rest are stuck behind enemy lines.

If you thought the Riftwar Saga was great, wait till you read this. I might be over-reaching, considering this is the 1st book of 4, but then again, if the beginning is great, my expectations tend to increase tenfold.

My Rating - 4 stars

PRICE - INR 337/- [Flipkart Price]

My Name is Red

Author: Orhan Pamuk
ISBN-13:  9780571212248, 978-0571212248
First published: 1998
Pages: 528
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Genre: Historical thriller

This last day of February, I risked getting late to work. I walked around the house frenetically, preparing my bath things, putting out my clothes, bumping into furniture, eyeing the clock, panicking, yet continuing to read the last few pages of Orhan Pamuk's multiple literary award-winning novel, 'My Name is Red'. It had to be finished today because I started reading this damned book in the beginning of January! When I say 'damned', I mean eloquent, I mean grandiose, I mean grandiloquent, and I mean all of those fancy adjectives. Even so, had I taken any longer than two months to finish it, I would have to shamefully walk around with a brown paper bag over my head.

It should not take two months to finish, but 'My Name is Red' is by no means an easy book. It is an exotic thriller, a study in language and a smallish history of Islamic art, all at the same time. Sometimes one loses patience, when Pamuk takes his time to weave into the plot minor stories from Islamic folklore and literature, but he is almost immediately forgiven for the wealth of knowledge and beauty flowing from his pen. These micro story clusters, usually in threes, are chewy, sweet, though not entirely indispensable. Pamuk uses these tales of shahs and pashas, artists and miniaturists, dervishes and lovers in the old school style of fables, richly texturing his plot. Every word, every turn of phrase has been artfully chosen by the writer so it resembles the coloured yet troubled world of artists.

The artists, heroes and villains of this book are all miniaturists belonging to the Ottoman Empire. Caught between their loyalties to olden Herat masters and new and lucrative Frankish techniques offering recognition and fame, these miniaturists live in times of intense turmoil. Working together, yet individually, on a secret book commissioned by the Sultan, they are pitted against each other. Jealousy, rivalry and suspicion lead to the murder of one of the miniaturists by another, and the drama begins to unfold.

The principal characters are the murdered miniaturist, Elegant Effendi; the royal workshop head, Master Osman; the co-ordinator of Sulatan's book, Enishte Effendi (who is also murdered along the way); his nephew, Black Effendi; his daughter, Shekure; Esther, the Jewish clothier and matchmaker; and three other master miniaturists, nicknamed Olive, Stork and Butterfly. It is known to the reader that one of this trio is the murderer, but Pamuk carefully conceals his identity till the end.

The narrative is done through each of these characters, and there's a breathtaking change of perspective with every successive chapter. A narrative of this style is quite unlike anything I've ever read before. The chapters are simply titled 'I, (character name)', so the reader knows easily whose voice he is hearing. Pamuk slips effortlessly from the mantle of a murdered to an artist, to a woman to a man. There are these exquisite chapters where the author even assumes the voice of a colour, an illustration or a mythological character, thus making organic the world of paints, brushes, and passion. His lines can easily be likened to brushstrokes, not big and broad, but fine like a miniaturist's. After all, it took Pamuk nearly eight years to create this masterpiece.

Rating: 4/5
Price: INR 399

Zombies Don't Date- R.W. Zander

1st PUBLISHED: 2003

ISBN: 0-439-39869-x

GENRE: Teen Fiction


If there's one thing Amber McGee can't stand, it's a drama queen. So when her best friend Zack asks her to look after Chastity, the spoiled-rotten zombie princess, Amber's less than thrilled. Chastity needs a full-time baby-sitter, and Amber's got no patience for her constant complaints and uppity 'tude.

Things go from bad to worse when Chastity follows Amber to school and bumps into local bully Parker Tolan. The zombies are supposed to be kept under wraps, and now Amber's biggest enemy is in on the secret. And- weirder than weird- he's actually developed a crush on the zombie! Can Amber find a way to keep these two crazy lovebirds apart- and get Chastity back to where she belongs?


Maybe someday, I won't have a million things going wrong all at once. But today is not that day.

That's the thought that was running through my head as I got dressed that morning. I was already late, and my mom was yelling up the stairs at me: "Amber, we're supposed to be at the mall in ten minutes. Are you almost ready?"

I wanted to make the woman happy. I really did. I did promise to make a trip to the mall just so she wouldn't feel so bad about having a soccer-playing tomboy for a daughter. But when I looked out the window, I saw a zombie chasing my friend Zack Margolis around. And I had to do something to help him.


Here's a totally different, totally hilarious take on zombies. Amber, Zack and Kyle get stuck with a bunch of zombies who are hell bent on driving them insane. Mostly by trying to pretend that they can still lead a normal other words, forgetting that they are 'undead'. There's Lassiter who wants to take over the world, there's Penelope who has a mad love for cooking despite being a total fire hazard; and then there's Chastity who considers herself a 'lady' and tries hard to get Amber to become one, too.

Amber and her friends try their best to get the zombies to move on... to, say, 'never-never land'. Like the charming (and much more cooperative) zombie Jeremiah. But things begin to go downhill when the local bully and his sidekick come across Chastity- and develop a crush on her, thinking that she's an actress preparing for her next role as a zombie! The whole episode is rib-tickling; especially finding Parker blush at Chastity's compliments.

Then there's the mystery behind Chastity's death that needs to be solved in order to help her move on; the story of her childhood makes a really interesting read. Also, Amber's relationship with her mom and each of their attempts to understand one another better is at times really funny, and at others quite touching. The end of this book in the Zombie Squad series is somewhat filmy, but not exactly predictable. This is just the right book to lay your hands on if you're looking for full on entertainment.


PRICE: Rs.100/- (Scholastic)


Crossroads- Jenny Markas

1st PUBLISHED: 2001

ISBN: 0-439-39744-8

GENRE: Chick Lit/ Teen Fiction (Adapted from the screenplay by Shonda Rhimes; based on the movie starring Britney Spears.)


Lucy, Kit, and Mimi were best friends. Until they hit high school, that is. Then Kit became queen of the popular crew; Lucy became queen of the nerds (yes, that's Britney. Imagine.) and Mimi became queen of the rebels. But they're all determined to follow their dreams- no matter where they might lead.

And on the day after graduation, those dreams bring Lucy, Kit, and Mimi together again- and lead them on a road trip across the country. Along the way,they'll bicker, banter, laugh, cry, and sing their hearts out. They'll find love, friendship, and loyalty. And they'll discover that where you end up is not as important as the people you bring along with you on the journey.


I can't stand it anymore. I meet Mimi's eyes and see that she can't stand it, either. I slide forward, reach over the seat, start to touch the radio dial.

"What are you doing?" Ben demands.

"What is with this music?" I demand back.

"I like it," he says.

"Can we listen to something else for ten minutes?" I need a break. Desperately.

"No." His eyes are on the road. His face is stony.

"Come on, Ben," says Lucy, barely looking up from her journal.

"Okay, okay," he says, "Five minutes."

Yes! I twist the dial until a pop station comes on. Soon, Mimi and Lucy and I are singing along, bouncing around in our seats. Ben's gritting his teeth. He can't take it. Finally, he reaches out and grabs the dial. Metal comes thundering out.

"You said five minutes!" Lucy yells over the music.

He just shakes his head. "I can't listen to that. Forget it."


Crossroads is one of those stories that sound entertaining- and are- but also happen to be the kind that belong to the less impressive category of teen fiction. It's amateurish, juvenile and stereotypical; yet, mercifully, a little better than the disastrous movie. The pictures included are pretty, though. And the first person narration by each of the characters gives it a personal touch. The rare portions with Ben speaking up are definitely amusing.

Having known each other since they were eight years old, Lucy, Mimi and Kit had made a pact to remain lifelong friends. However, when they enter high school, their differences draw them apart. They make new friends, face new challenges, and try to forget about the past. But on the day of the graduation party, they decide to keep their promise of meeting in the school grounds to dig up an old shoe box they'd decorated and buried when they were kids. Opening it, they are all overcome by nostalgia as they go through all those things they'd once held dear.

Mimi, the pregnant girl from the trailer park who misses her friends the most, tells Lucy and Kit about her plans to audition for a record company in L.A. When they express their shock, she tries to persuade them to join her and this guy she's getting a ride with. Tempted by her desire to meet her boyfriend, Kit ponders over the does Lucy, who is desperate to find the mother who abandoned her when she was a little child.

What follows is a bumpy ride that leads to self realization and a lot more. As the girls try to keep aside their differences, learn to accept the changes in each other and try to live life the way they'd always wanted to, they learn that dreams may change, but friends remain forever.

RATING: 2.5 on 5

PRICE: Rs.125/- (Scholastic)


Tuesday, February 28, 2012


AUTHOR: Jean Sasson

Genre: Autobiographical, Non fiction
ISBN-13: 9780553816952

NO. OF PAGES: 329 (Bantam books)
PRICE: Rs.288 (at Flipkart )

BOOK COVER SAYS: Jean Sasson captures the flavour and reality of life in a country full of extremes and contradictions.Princess 'Sultana', a real Saudi princess closely related to the King, lives those contradictions, with priceless jewels,many servants, unlimited funds at her disposal, but no freedom. A prisoner in a gilded cage with no vote, no control, no value but as a mother of sons, she is totally at the mercy of the men in her life...her father, her brother, her husband.

EXCERPT:  "The mere suspiction of sexual misconduct, such as kissing, can bring death to a young girl. in addition, public congratulations are given from the men of religion for the father's 'notable' act of upholding the commands of the Prophet! "

SWARNALI SPEAKS: This is one book which is both entertaining and depressing, very depressing. 
Princess Sultana is a real princess,belonging to the Saudi royal family. Her mother was married at a very tender age to a man completely unknown to her. their union produced 11 children, all daughters but one son, Ali. Ali is a carbon copy of her father, tyrannical and very condescending on women around him. Like his father he has numerous wives and an even larger number of concubines. The narrative is filled with stories about the tortures done to women in Saudi Arabia in the name of religion and propriety. Certain tales like that of the Filipino maids, Sara's first wedding to a 60 year old man, the mental and physical tortures she undergoes due to the union, the sacrifice of a few other women who tried to defy the strict laws of the county, are more than cruel.
Despite the gruesome tales, there are instance which makes the reader laugh. Sultana is a very animated character who is lucky to have married to a man who truly loves her. The description given when her future in-laws come to see her before the wedding is truly hilarious.
Princess Sultana makes it very clear to the reader that it is not Allah, her religion , Prophet Mohammed or the Holy Koran which are responsible for the fates of these women,it is for those fanatics, who have corrupted the message of God.
 I have read other articles and books where I was told that Saudi Arabia is not as open and lenient to its women like many other Arabian and Muslim countries where women are given sufficient freedom regarding their choice of jobs and clothes and wearing a Hijab is not compulsory.
Filled with a lot of historical facts about the royal family and its origin, unknown stories of cruelty and numerous rituals and religious ceremonies, the book makes a very interesting and gripping read. the style and language are very simple and fluid making it an easy read. 

MY RATING: 4.5/5
P.S.- Names of all the characters in the book are fake,to protect the princess and her family.The author has personally told me that they are real people.
P.P.S- Bestselling author of Daughters of Arabia, Desert Royale, Rape of Kuwait, Mayada: Daughter of Iraq and others. The Princess trilogy consists of Princess, Daughters of Arabia and Princess Sultana's Circle.


AUTHOR : Mahesh Dattani
GENRE: Drama
ISBN: 8175300035
MRP: Rs. 60 (on flipkart)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Mahesh Dattani is the first Indian playwright writing in English to be awarded the Sahitya Akademi award. His plays bring Indian drama into the present day in their themes sexuality, religious tension and gender issues while still focussing on human relationships and personal and moral choices which are the classic concerns of world drama.

EXCERPT: "  Dan : Forgive me, Tara. forgive me, for making it my tragedy   " 

SWARNALI SPEAKS: Mahesh Dattani has a motive,a serious social motive whenever he writes a play. But his plays are so entertaining that they often hide the serious issues highlighted in his works. I won't be exaggerating a bit if I say haven't read another Indian playwright whose works are as captivating, entertaining, well structured and seriously handled as Dattani's. He is a pure genius when it comes to handling complex plots with sensitivity. His multi layered and multi dimentional stage setting is another interesting feature in most of his plays. 

Tara in particular is set in two different locations and different time zones. The play begins with the grown up Dan (Chandan Patel) at his house in London who attempts to write a play called "Twinkle Tara" about his twin sister Tara. The scene is then shifted to the past when Chandan and Tara were kids. Dattani takes the creative license when he makes the characters Tara and Chandan, Siamese twins (which is a biological impossibility. Siamese twins are always of the same sex and are females most of the times). This he does purposefully to heighten the issue he is handling.
Tara and Chandan were born with three legs, one each and an extra which was given to Chandan during their separation. This extra leg which was given to Chandan eventually becomes ineffective and had to be surgically removed,turning both the siblings one-legged. Tara is the bubbly, positive and ambitious one who is not ready to lose due to her physical deformity. Chandan on the other hand has accepted his inability and does not revolt. 
Dattani takes the issue of tyrannical patriarchy and how the siblings turn to be the worst sufferers despite their innocence. I was shocked beyond words when I came to know that in certain families in Gujrat, the female infant is killed by drowning her in a tub of milk.
Dattani takes you through a heart wrenching tale where everyone has their roles in leading Tara to her tragedy. Read the book to know more and be prepared to be shocked and surprised.


#BookReview: Utrecht Rain by Jonathan Wilkins

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars Maaike Meijer is attacked in a senseless outbreak of violence at the Dom Tower in Utrecht. Her broth...