Monday, July 29, 2013

The Weight Loss Club by Devapriya Roy

Set in a middle-class housing colony, this is the story of stay-at-home mum Monalisa, who cannot clean the kitchen counter enough times; Meera, who is bullied constantly by her traditional mother-in-law; college-going Abeer, who isn't sure how to impress the glamorous Mandy; academic Aparajita, who has no takers on the marriage mart; philosopher Ananda, whom no one takes seriously; and Treeza, a former school secretary now sunk in gloom. Into their midst arrives Oxford-returned Sandhya: half hippie, half saadhvi, full spiritual guru. Under her aegis is formed The Weight Loss Club, throwing the lives of our heroes and heroines into utter and delightful disarray. 

But while chemistry brews and equations change, one question remains: who is Brahmacharini Sandhya, and why on earth has she moved into Nancy Housing Cooperative?

What made me pick this book for review was not only the plot but also the cover. I rarely read fiction which is wholly set in a society or a household. It involves knowing the past and present of every member in such details that even their silence or absence in a scene makes sense. 

The weight loss club is no ordinary drama that follows a pattern , but it more so like a tale in wraps of the lives led by people inhabiting the society. Right from how the society got its name to the people living in the building, the novel hooks you. But the book title doesn't make absolute sense , not till the middle of the book when it is casually mentioned and then sticks to the people of the society who follow Sandhya's wise words and instructions.

No family is perfect , not as much as it looks to the people who don't know better. This is something which neither shock you or nor was it expected but it just makes sense. It makes sense , how people react to situations , how people are known to others and how well they respond to the chances given to them to make a difference not just to their life but to others too. Weight Loss club is hopefully warm , adorably nice and yet a vulnerable set of people , normal people who have their own dreams and desires from life.

One an immediately think of some one who would be like the character you read about or you would secretly smile at something you would have said or done the same way. Apu's love for food ( and food dreams ) , her mother's efforts to make her lose weight and find a NRI to marry her off ,  Monalisa's obsession with his sons and her fears , John 's patience with his wife Treeza who has her own secret grief to come to terms with , all this is a part of our life too at one point or another. 

Another fact i realized while reading this is that I love books based in Calcutta. This is the third book I have read and I enjoy reading about the festive times there. [ Guess  the year end vacation might take me to this city finally ] 

While the book came to an end , I was reminded of Manju Kapoor's Home which has nothing in common with this one, after her book , this is the first time I loved being a part of someone's universe so much. Nancy Housing Society will be missed for few days. Till I get another such book in hands.

Rating : 4/5

This review is on request by Rupa publications , but the views are all mine.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Sea of Innocence by Kishwar Desai

I don't usually read mysteries or thrillers because I do not find much in them to 'take home'. But an occasional read between heavy books serves as good refreshment, given that most mysteries are sharply written and are very pacy. If nothing, a Sidney Sheldon or a Robert Ludlum promise adrenaline-fulled entertainment. But not so a Kishwar Desai. In fact, not only is Desai not like those masters, she's downright BORING. I don't remember the last time it took me THIS long to finish a mystery.

From what I understand, The Sea of Innocence is the third of her Simran Singh series - a 40-something social worker who moonlights as a detective. Desai's first book, Witness the Night won the Costa First Novel Award, which was then followed by Origins of Love. I haven't read the first two, but after this book, I don't think I'll ever read anything by her again.

Inspired by the much publicised case of British tourist, Scarlett Keeling, who was raped and murdered on the beaches of Goa, The Sea of Innocence tries to depict the darker side of the sunny town. Goa's dark underbelly could have made a great setting for a crime thriller, but Desai fails to use it to her advantage. The book is painfully slow, even though she has thrown in all elements like drug-fuelled parties, beaches, holiday romances, ageing Hippies, politicians, power games and even rape tapes!

The feminists may come at me with pitchforks, but Desai 'talks too much'. As I trudged along its pages, I couldn't help comparing her with male authors, whose books seem to have so much more action. And don't even bring up Agatha Christie, okay? The book often sounds like a long rant about the single Simran's weight problems, her failed loves and mommy issues. There are lengthy monologue-y stretches and you want to shake her up and ask her to DO SOMETHING!

The plot is fairly simple; a young British girl goes missing from the beaches of Goa, and a year later, videos of her surface. The case is reopened unofficially, with Simran starting a covert investigation at her ex cop boyfriend's behest. Simran meets the missing girl's sister, Marian, who also implores her to help find her 16-year-old sibling, Lisa. Following trails and anonymous video clues, Simran discovers that the disappearance has to do with a drug cartel and that powerful men are involved.

Desai manages to keep the suspense till the end, but the plot is stretched so thin, that by the end of it, you don't really care. Most of it is predictable, but one must give her points for a scary twist in the end. The story, however, is wrapped up very shoddily, and the last few pages seem to have been written in a hurry.

The jacket of the book quotes the Telegraph praising the book as being 'Terrific'. My verdict is different by just three letters: Terrible.

Author: Kishwar Desai
ISBN: 978-1-47112-837-0
Pages: 356
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Simon & Schuster India
Copy source:

Baker's Dozen - The ELLE Tranquebar Book of Short Stories

I will begin this review with a quote, which has got nothing to do with the book. It is by one of my favourite writers, whose writing style is something I have always tried to learn from.

"People ask me why my style is so simple. It is, in fact, deceptively simple, for no two sentences are alike. It is clarity I am trying to attain, not simplicity. Of course, some people want literature to be difficult and there are writers who like to make their readers toil and sweat. They hope to be taken more seriously that way. I have always tried to achieve prose that is easy and conversational. And those who think its simple should try it for themselves." - Ruskin Bond

In my entire journey with Baker's Dozen, this fond quotation was ringing in my head. Not because I wasn't enjoying what I was reading, but because I was applying a lot of my brains into understanding thoughts which I would much rather flow with. Writing in a fashion which is complicated and extravagant is perhaps the order of the day, and it carries with it streaks of brilliance too, but it is not something which gives you the comfort of book you may snuggle in the bed with. This, I am saying despite having enjoyed the ELLE Tranquebar book of short stories thoroughly.

Baker's Dozen is the kind of book which enchants you from the time you receive it in your hand. The minimal art-work on the cover, and the thought behind the title are the first things you marvel at, and the ride promises to get better. Contrary to what one might expect, it is not a collection of 12 tales, rather, it has 13 hand-picked short stories - the 13th thrown in for good luck, just like bakers traditionally would do with a loaf of bread. The stories come divided into two sections - one by ELLE and the other by Tranquebar- and both sections have stories which are gem-like in their sparkle. I remember being a little harried with the plot of the first story, only to become a big fan of the author,Sharanya Manivannan later. Her story, Greed and the Gandhi Quartet is nothing like what you might have ever read in the name of short fiction, ever. Her narrative is in the form of a conversation, leading to a richer storyline at the backdrop of it all. Something to learn, something to simply be impressed by, something also to connect with.

The story which falls second on the list of my favourites from this book is The Howling Waves of Tranquebarby Madhulika Liddle. It is a story whose end did not surprise - but the craftiness and imagination of the author deserve a full score. Set in an eerie locale, this story takes the reader from shivers to amusement - and it one of the most amazing examples of good and effective story telling.

Baani and Salted Cashews, by Payal Mukherjee and Divya Sreedharan respectively, take up compelling social issues and create a hard-hitting narrative about them. Salted Cashews tells you about the kind of perversion which exists in our society at a subterranean level, capable of and successful in robbing of the innocence and gaiety of childhood. Baani takes one to the world of refugees, their struggles with life on a daily basis. You will find other stories in this anthology throwing light on various facets of existence, including love, including sexual advances at workplaces, including dreams and desires, and so much more.

To state in a single sentence - this is a thoroughly enjoyable book, a collectible, where no two stories are alike, where you need breathing space while hopping from one tale to the next and where, you will end up being enamoured by the kind of writing talent which exists in India. My only problem with the book is its often cryptic, high-flown language. I will admit, I tried hard but could not complete Mridula Koshy's stories at the end. I am the kind who stubbornly pursues even a very boring novel just for the satisfaction of having finished it. And these were short stories I abandoned. They might be stylistically brilliant, but they do little to prove that good literature is the one which needs to be embellished with incomprehensible narration. Literature is supposed to reach out, to touch, to perhaps also reform - a little simplicity in telling a tale in what I would earnestly hope for in future stories which come my way.

It could've easily been a 4+ star book for me, but just for the amount it made me toil, I think I would settle with 3.5 on 5 stars.

Book Details -
Author - Various authors
Publisher - Tranquebar/Westland
Published - 2013
Book Source - Review Copy
Genre - Short-fiction/Anthology 
Price - Rs. 250
Pages -  192

Friday, July 26, 2013

Boomtown, by Aditya Mukherjee

About the author:
Aditya Mukherjee, an alumnus of IIM Bangalore, works for a management consulting firm in Delhi. This is his debut novel.

Thoughts from cover and blurb:
It could be good, or it could be boring. It depends on how the narration is. The cover page design is very beautiful, and right on the idea (no pun intended) put forth by the blurb.

My thoughts on the book:
I’m a self-confessed foodie! I can’t cook to save my life possibly, but I like being in the kitchen, I like seeing food shows like Masterchef and I like imagining the aroma of the foods that I can only see on the screen! So this book, with a young chef in Jaaved trying to innovate on traditional recipes right in the prologue, got off to the right start as far as I’m concerned. You could almost imagine the scene, the effort that Jaaved was putting in, his nervousness and his care. You could feel his heart racing, wondering if he would be found out, and his heart in his mouth moment when the doors open asking for the chef who made the dish!

Enter Jacob James (JJ)! Plump, short and from a rich family, he finds the slight difference in Jaaved’s dish to the traditional recipe and his venture starts there. JJ would mostly not wow you with his character… he’s careless, reckless, unemotional to the extreme at times, but he’s determined. He’s determined to chase a goal, or a dream, or maybe it was just a spur of the moment idea, and open a chain of restaurants. But he can’t do it alone, and his first recruit is Jaaved, grandson of a famous hotelier.

He needs someone who can do the talking, the presentations, the (ermm…) work! He finds his old classmate Karthik Roy, who’s very recently been fired from his software company, and convinces him to join his team. Karthik is the sweet, silent, innocent fella who tries to, but can’t say no to JJ. Or maybe it’s just the convincing skills of JJ, whatever, I’ll leave that to you to figure out.

The last of the entrepreneurs is Sheetal, who already manages a successful restaurant and after thinking on JJ’s proposal for awhile, agrees to join the venture. She’s a single mom, hard working, very business minded and hard on the decisions. She’s also sweet to those people she cares about, and honest as well.

The novel is a light read. And it works, works really well I feel. Language is easy to follow, the narration makes it very easy to imagine and the characters are true to who they are supposed to be. I’m no entrepreneur, but this felt the real deal, because it doesn’t just start with an idea for a restaurant, and voila, they make their dreams come true in the next chapter. It had the essence of business. The rejection of their ideas, their decision to give their lives a backseat and start pursuing that dream, to begin somewhere so they can show the disbelievers they can reach somewhere, how they handle the politics in their venture, the difficulties in getting the right combination to success! Everything is there! There’s a little romance thrown in the works too, and it works because it doesn’t overwhelm the actual plot of the book. There’s a family drama too, with the society’s idea of what’s great as a career and what’s not playing a part. I enjoyed this very much, and I feel it was a brilliant debut. It goes into my favorites list and to-be-read-again bookshelf! Kudos!

I’m still wondering about the title though… why is this novel called Boomtown?!

Rating: 4.75 stars!

Book details:
Title: Boomtown
Author: Aditya Mukherjee
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-81-291-2407-4
Publishers: Rupa Publishers
Price: INR. 295

Reviewed by Leo

Shared with

  1. First Reads Challenge at b00kr3vi3ws
  2. Indian Quills Review Challenge at The Tales Pensieve

This was reviewed for Rupa Publishers, who I thank for the review copy. No other payment was taken for this review.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green

I would not have read any John Green book. Not in this year atleast , if it was not for a sweet request from one of our reader [ whose request email I would be sharing next week ].

So, after much research and checking all his books , I bought Looking for Alaska. Something about the plot hooked my interest and I admit I did misinterpret it actually.

Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

The book is divided into two parts , separated by a major event in the life of Pudge , Colonel , Takumi , Lara and Alaska. I liked the way chapters were headed as a countdown to  and after the event ( 122 days before , 100 days before .. 2 days after , 46 days after and so on ) It adds upto the feeling that you are a part of life of these friends from long time and have so much more to know and feel along them.

Alaska is seemingly carefree prankster who knows a lot about people around her but never shares her ideas and feelings as openly. She loves to read , to explore , to lead and be there for friends. Her guilt makes her vulnerable and moody and that is something you hate to like her for. Miles and his roomate Chip nobody and somebody in their own ways. I like the way colonel Chip makes Miles a part of his friend circle and how Green shows us the bonds' strength and weakness with snippets from their life and not just stating it clearly.  Takumi and Lara feel like insignificant characters sometime but then , every one has a role to play in the bigger picture. 

For me the novel was an enjoyable read in the before section. It set up the stage just right for the after part. That's where the story kind of stops and the characters take over on their own. Their thoughts and actions are bit surprising at times and yet understandable.  Having said this , I am not still sure if i liked this one or "really liked" this book. It left me wondering and wishing for a different end yet the one I read made a lot of sense. The book will not appeal to all. It has some interesting philosophies , a few random conversations that just hit you hard and a lot of cute moments that make you smile.

Read it if you are not looking for too much fun. This is a beautiful tale of teenage and its adventures.

"Teenagers think they are invincible" with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are."

Rating : 4/5

The Bridge of Deaths - M.C.V. Egan

Genre:  History, Mystery
ISBN-13:  9781463410414
PUBLISHER: Authorhouse (2011)
PRICE: Rs. 934 (on

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   M.C.V. Egan lives in South Florida with her husband and teenage son. She is fluent in four languages; English,Spanish,French and Swedish. From a young age became determined to solve the 'mystery' of her grandfather's death, she has researched this story for almost two decades. The story has taken her to Denmark, England and unconventional world of past lives and psychics. (from )

On August 15th, 1939 an English passenger plane from British Airways Ltd. Crashed in Danish waters between the towns of Nykobing/Falster and Vordingborg. There were five casualties reported and one survivor. Just two weeks before Hitler invaded Poland with the world at the brink of war the manner in which this incident was investigated left much open to doubt. The jurisdiction battle between the two towns and the newly formed Danish secret police, created an atmosphere of intrigue and distrust.
In the winter of 2009-2010 a young executive, Bill is promoted and transferred to London for a major International firm. He has struggled for the better part of his life with nightmares and phobias, which only seem to worsen in London. As he seeks the help of a therapist he accepts that his issues may well be related to a 'past-life trauma'.

Through love, curiosity, archives and the information superhighway of the 21st century Bill travels through knowledge and time to uncover the story of the 1939 plane crash.

The Bridge of Deaths is a love story and a mystery. Fictional characters travel through the world of past life regressions and information acquired from psychics as well as archives and historical sources to solve "One of those mysteries that never get solved" is based on true events and real people, it is the culmination of 18 years of sifting through sources in Denmark, England and the United States, it finds a way to help the reader feel that he /she is also sifting through data and forming their own conclusions.

The journey takes the reader to well known and little known events leading up to the Second World War, both in Europe and America. The journey also takes the reader to the possibility of finding oneself in this lifetime by exploring past lives.
(from )

SWARNALI SPEAKS: I got this as an e-book from the author (through FL) to review.  M.C.V.Egan’s book The Bridge of Deaths was a serious read, not something you could start and end in one go. But by “serious” I don’t mean the book isn’t interesting, its that it is not a light read and takes a lot of time to read and comprehend. The book is very intriguing and informative.

The best thing about the book is the amount of research of the background of the World War II that the author has done and the minute detailing that has been paid attention to in the writing of the book. What I particularly liked is how the author has documented each information source in the footnotes,so that the reader can easily refer to them for further reference,if required.

The author has created characters who are individuals with very real fears and dilemmas. One particular instance is that Catalina is somewhat unaware that she is scared of knowing the truth, the fear arising from the fact that the search for the truth which constitutes a major part of her life would come to an end and her life may suddenly lose all the motivation and reason that it had for so many years. Each person in the book has a distinct personality and is etched out individually, both emotionally and psychologically. Another interesting feature about the book is the fact that the author herself is a character in the book. She uses her middle name Catalina in the book to represent the character. 

Several ideas are dealt with in the book apart from the search behind the mysterious crash of the British Airways plane. The religious idea of a previous life, the possibility of incidents from that previous life haunting us in our present life in dreams and a psychological delving into the psyche of the characters are some of them.

The book has romance, history, mystery and psychology all rolled into a great combination. The fiction and real parts in the book are really well blended. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.

MY RATING: 4.5 / 5

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Walk Down The Lane, by Arpita Ghosh Sarkar

I saw this book in my library, and thought the story to be light enough to complete on a journey, and not very mushy. It was indeed a very easy read, and I finished it in a couple of hours or so. The narration is in a very simple style, and the story flows very quickly. There’s nothing that sticks out as absolutely out of the world, but I personally liked the characters and their actions, especially Joyneel’s character, though looking at it from a realistic point of view, it might not happen like that. It could, but it might not. For me, the thing was that I could know it was a happy ending from the blurb itself. It was quite detailed. A blurb should invoke interest without giving hints to how it ends, I feel. Editing wise, it needs a lot of work. Too many ellipsis where it should have been full stops or commas, and that sort of takes a bit away from the story itself. Overall, a book that definitely bodes well with travel reading!

Book details:

Title: A Walk Down The Lane
Author: Arpita Ghosh Sarkar
Genre: Romance
ISBN: 9789380349459
Published by: Srishti Publishers
Price: INR. 100

Reviewed by Leo

Shared with First Reads and Indian Quills Reading Challenge

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cough Syrup Surrealism by Tharun James Jimani

Sometimes, it just happens that a book appeals to you, not because of the plot or the blurb, but the title. Surrealism is a big concept in itself, that combined with a simple thing like cough syrup piqued my interest. The blurb of the book had me a little confused with the usage of the word depressive, but the idea of an imaginary friend and such definitely got my attention further and I felt it would be an interesting read, which it was.

What Tharun does is take some uncomfortable topics for Indian writers (atleast, they usually are) like sex and drugs and mix it with a family drama, which I am sure quite a few of us might relate to, with parental pressure and dreams and the emotional atyachar that happens. I think those emotions that one undergoes during that phase have been beautifully brought out. What also appealed to me was the philosophy that’s spread through the book, mostly coming from Mao or Paloma or Sania, and almost always directed at Charlie. Somehow, it just fit. Charlie’s confusion between emotions… is he in love, or is it just a crush, should he tell Paloma about it etc. also comes out nicely. Even the thoughts as he is under the influence of drugs also is done justice, that unsurity and memory lapses etc. are quite clear through the narration.

I think the timelines in the various Facebook statuses is confusing. Though innovative and reflective of the time and trends during that time, it didn’t work as well as it could have maybe. Another small error I could catch was that the couple watch Kal Ho Na Ho movie in the theater in 2006, whereas the movie released in late 2003, and it wouldn’t have been in theaters at that particular time. Sania’s facebook names are spelt differently in places (though that may not be an error per se) and I don’t know, trend or no, if kids added parents and aunts etc. to Gtalk and Facebook those days, especially when you are living a second life that the family might be unaware of. Didn't quite understand the ending either (like it was all a figment of Charlie's imagination or something. Not sure)

I think this is one of those books that few may like and few may not. I liked it for the most part, but it isn’t something I’d read completely again. Maybe just go to the philosophy, which was what appealed to me most. Overall, a decent debut, and I would read his future novels as well, when they come.

My Rating: 7.25 on 10

Book Details:
Title: Cough Syrup Surrealism
Author: Tharun James Jimani
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-81-7234-452-8
Publishers: Fingerprint Publishing
Price: INR. 250

Reviewed by Leo

Shared with First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws and Indian Quills Reading Challenge at The Tales Pensieve.

Reviewed for Fingerprint Publishing, to whom I offer thanks for the review copy

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Compass box killer by Piyush Jha


 The last time I read an Indian thriller ( and liked it too ) was RIP . I have not read Mumbaistan and frankly was not even aware of its success but what attracted me to this book was the name and the fact that it hinted of serial killer. Oh ! I so love serial killer plots 'cause they have so much to offer for a motive of the killer. Fortunately this book will not disappoint you one bit [ Maybe a bit, if you are too critical ].  

  A crime thriller, set in the by-lanes of Mumbai. One muggy afternoon, a senior police officer is found murdered at his desk. When Inspector Virkar from the Crime Branch arrives at the scene, he finds a cryptic note that spills out of a student s compass box. 
Then begins a series of killings and in each, a telltale compass box reveals more clues.  Accompanied by the attractive, ambitious TV reporter, Raashi Hunerwal, Virkar has to race against time to catch the Compass Box Killer before the bodies pile up. As the investigation shuttles from Mumbai to Khandala to Belgaum, Virkar is taken deep into a labyrinth of backroom deals that lead to shocking revelations about the ruthless killer s motives. 

  Except Virkar's habit to say those hindi dialogues , half of which did not mean much to me in the flow of things , I liked the character Piyush has created - honest , hard working , compassionate and a straight forward clever guy who believes in getting justice for all , by any means possible. The book got me hooked from the very first chapter. There is something so damn attractive about a man who knows his ways in the world - his habits , his space , his duty and his sensibility intact under all scenarios. Add to that an intelligent killer who improvises with every strike. who would not love a well matched pair in a book.

Another thing I like about a book is that it should give you a feel and context of the places it is set in , which was done to perfection in compass box killer. The people , the places , their reactions and the expectations from every character was met. Absolute spell binding reading time happened with Compass box killer. I am soon gonna grab Piyush's first book now.

  Rating : 4/5

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

Another bandwagon I have been too late to jump on(the others being Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series),The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo kept recommending itself to me until I finally got down to reading it...more like watching the movie,being horrified and then quietly deciding to read it.
Not that the movie wasn't great but I prefer reading violence to watching it.
And I ain't regretting nothin'.

You know a story only as much as you know it's characters and here,Stieg Larsson leaves nothing to chance.Even though none of the characters are endearing in the normal sense of the word,you still end up empathising with them.

The book is the tale of two(and more) people, set to the background of a snow-covered Sweden, who are destined to meet to unravel a messy murder story.That of Harriet Vanger, niece to Henrik Vanger(eccentric powerful billionaire chairperson of the family-business, Vanger Industries) who disappeared without a trace 19 years ago during the annual family board meeting,leaving her uncle wondering what happened to her for the rest of his life and plunging the already dysfunctional family into further dysfunctional-ness.

And who better to un-knot this mess than journalist Mikael 'Kalle' Blomkvist(played by Daniel Craig in the movie *applause*),the eye-of-the-storm in the media-managed Wennerströaffair where Bomkvist was accused of defaming the industrial financier magnate Hans-Erik Wennerström.
Joining Blomkvist in his seemingly fruitless and obscure search for Harriet is the girl with the dragon tattoo. Lisbeth Salander. Hacker extraordinaire. Social Pariah.Rationally Irrational.And victim to the society's appalling guardianship system.But she isn't going to take anything lying down.
And what follows is the pulling out of (a lot of) skeletons from the proverbial family cupboard...but not all skeletons want to be pulled out.

The language is very factual and straightforward(alluding to the author's journalistic background) with a lot of detail regarding politics and social policy which I found tiring at times and words are treated as words with none of the hidden shades of meaning in the labyrinths of prose stuff.Hence,be warned,reader discretion is advised.
The story is as gruesome and graphic as a story could ever get at times and a lot of explicit stuff is thrown at you with no preamble whatsoever...not recommended for your 15-year old book-loving niece.No sir.
So waving your tab around with the book opened at a serious Teach India conference is NOT a good idea.I should know.

And now excuse me while I go dig into The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Book Specifications:
Original Title Män som hatar kvinnor (2005 - Swedish), This edition The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009) by Knopf
Author Stieg Larsson 
ISBN 0307269752 (ISBN13: 9780307269751)
Series Millenium #1

Unaccustomed Earth- Jhumpa Lahiri

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Random House India
Price : INR 295
ISBN: 978 81 8400 060 3

Synopsis(As given at the back of the book) :

Everyone has their secrets.  In her new collection of stories, Jhumpa Lahiri gently lifts the veil to reveal how even the most ordinary lives have their dramas and tragedies and then, as gently, lets it fall back down again.

Unaccustomed earth returns to the terrain- the heart of family life and the immigrant experience-that Jhumpa Lahiri has made utterly hers but her themes this time around have darkened and deepened. Poised, nuanced and deeply moving, here is a superb collection.

AaishanniA :

I did not think twice while picking up this book as Jhumpa Lahiri has carved quite the niche for herself in book lovers minds. After reading The Namesake, I was keen for more. Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of short stories, snippets out of various peoples lives with the only thing common to them all is that they are Bengalis that live in America. There are two parts to this book. Part one is 5 short stories. Part two is a trio of three stories about Hema and Kaushik and their lives.

All the stories indicate the fact the although America is still the place Indians think of as a place of security, it has its cons. No matter where one lives, the idea of unhappiness, loneliness and pain does exist.This book shows  more depth and disturbance in the character's lives than any other of  Jhumpa Lahiri's books and thats what binds the stories together.

Each of the stories sends a message in an unique and subtle manner. "Unaccustomed Earth" talks about  remembrance and relationships. "Only Goodness" talks about the importance of one minute. How one wrong decision can destruct a life and the trust between people. "A Choice of Accommodation" talks about the relationship between mixed marriages and and the shift of power from the male of the house to his wife."Heaven- Hell" talks about how although people are living in America, they still have a sort of prejudice towards mixed marriage. "Nobodys Business" talks about how naive women can be, and also sometimes how much ever you hope for change, it doesn't occur. Part two of the Book is about Hema and Kaushik which is a love story with endless amounts of complications and quite a melancholic though soothing end.

The best part about these stories are that they have a slightly abrupt and thought provoking ending so the reader is able to draw his own conclusions.Jhumpa Lahiri has a beautiful style of writing, she allows the stories to talk for themselves. There are many points in the stories where one would be caught off guard with the sudden twist in emotion and thought. According to me, this is her best book yet, even better than. A must read.

Rating : 4/5

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Author: Jennifer Egan 
Price: 12.43 USD
Pages: 352

Synopsis ( a bookstore):
Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

I was hesitant about this book to begin with. It did win a Pulitzer Prize which is one of the reasons I started to read it. I fell in love almost instantly. This book is written in a really cool structural form. It focuses on lives of Bennie and Sasha but every chapter revolves around a different character that had something to do with these people. There's one chapter about Sasha's boss and many chapters detailing the lives of each one of Bennie's old friends. 

The book mainly touches upon how time affects people and how no one can win against the forces of time. I loved the way she showed how connected people are to everyone even if you don't know it at that point. It affects all the characters in unexpected ways, some towards self destruction and others with redemption.

This book did have a fair share of cursing and drug use so if that makes you uncomfortable then I would suggest skipping this one. I still found it revolutionary! After reading this one, I've been reading all of Jennifer Egan's books. Giving this book a chance, a try definitely wouldn't hurt. 

Rating: 5/5 

Romi and Gang by Tushar Raheja

Two years back , when we started this site , I had to review Tushar's first book "Anything for you Ma'm" and I had such a hard time finishing it. I do not know what I was expecting from this book , but this one , Lets say this one just warmed not just my heart but my very soul.

The cover , the book size , the plot .. It all takes you to your summer vacation days when you read Hardy boys ( yeah , I always love them more than any other fictional teens ) , Famous five , Arabian nights or Panchtantra ..

Romi and gang is the story of 4 boys - Romi , Sukhi , Sunny & Golu . Classmates , best friends , brothers , team mates .. call them anything , but you will always find that connected spirits and eyes full of hopes and dreams. Connected strongly by their love for cricket and their equal capabilities in the game , this book is a story of their life in the small town Mauji , their school , parents , teachers they love , teachers they hate and some who do not like them the same.

It is no coming of age sort of book with extreme life scenarios but the beauty of the book lies in depicting how even the smallest changes , the smallest events and the words of our well wishers change a child's heart and outlook for his own life. almost every event in the book made me think of my school days or my brother's and many stories my friends have told of school. no character was out of place or out of his mind either !

I love Romi's dad and Victor sir for being the ideal parent and guardian to these kids and to teach them how to believe in their dreams.

Kim is another mysterious character about whom you would want to know more and yet the enigma kind of adds to the book's charm.

I smiled , laughed , called my brother to tell about this book and finally I felt a lump in my throat when I reached the end. No, it is not a sad end , i am just too emotional with such books ok !

Rating : 5/5


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dark Pursuit - The Lost Shinmahs, by Kevan Dinn

About the author:
Kevan Dinn wanted to do something different, creative and satisfying after years of corporate life that took him around the world. Through that desire was born a fantasy world, and this book, the first of a four-part series.

My thoughts on the book:
Fantasy is a genre that I love to read. This book was different because firstly, it was a Kindle copy and secondly, it took me longer than I expected because of various problems.

The book tells the tale of Adoy, who along with his parents, belong to a group of people who have mental powers. These people, the Shinmah, number few, and the dark warlord Khomer sets out to destroy those lost shinmah. This leads to Adoy and his parents returning to Liguanea for him to learn how to use that facility.

What I like in any book is the pace of narration. It should be quick enough to keep the reader’s attention and interest going. This book had that, and the language was good, which helped bring the characters and setting to life in my imagination. I liked the concept actually, it had some childlike influences too, like naming of swords and weapons. Reminded me of my childhood when I used to name soft toys and toy guns etc. The new world created definitely makes me eager to read more of the series. And the ending gives hope that a lot more is to come.

What I didn’t like was directness, not in the narration but in the characters. It seems they are who they are, nothing more. Some parts seem rushed through, but when it is a fiction of this length, I guess that’s something we can adjust with. But I hope the other 3 parts are a little more complete, a little more descriptive when it comes to characters.

Overall, an enjoyable book, and I hope it gets a publishing deal. It deserves to be in print, and it’d make it more enjoyable to read, atleast for me.

My rating: 7.5/10

Book details:
Title: Dark Pursuit – The Lost Shinmah
Author: Kevan Dinn
Type: Kindle e-Book
Genre: Fantasy

Reviewed by Leo

Shared with First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws and Indian Quills Reading Challenge at The Tales Pensieve

This book is reviewed as part of the Reviewers’ Programme on The Tales Pensieve. I thank Reshmy and the author Kevan Dinn for sending across a review copy.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Power Play [- the game is on ] by Parinda Joshi

One man. One team. One game. Or not?

Source : google images
I have not read many books set in corporate structure , none from an Indian set up, so this book was a sort of first for me. And I am glad this book did nothing to discourage me to read more books on similar lines. Another fear I had before reading this book was that I might not be interested much in the sports side of the story as it appeared from the synopsis but gals, be assured , the book is not going to let your attention waver any time you pick this up [ unless of course you must pause your reading ].

PowerPlay opens with introducing the readers to Vivek Garewal , the youngest and most successful VP of a consulting firm that specializes is acquisition services to various businessmen and industries. Vivek had always wanted to work in sports and finally sees an opportunity with a poor performing IGL team that needs lot of help if it has to regain its fans and recover losses too. Keya is a part of the marketing team for IGL and as stars would have intended , her paths cross with Vivek but not in a friendly way. A lot of twist and some orchestrated events later , they begin seeing each other for reasons other than work.Controlling the moves in the firm is the new owner Harsh and a lot of characters that hold the cards to the fate of this deal and people involved with the team, none of whom looks out of place or wasted one bit.

The narration of the book is even paced , sounds true for each event and the plot neither is too simple , nor too complex for a reader. The book gives you a good picture of the "games" that are played in boardrooms and the look of it from different angles  , as seen by different players in there. How every one plays with his own rules and for different reasons , fitting all of it into one performing model is something that can keep any one on the edge.

What i felt missing in the book was the clarity between Keya and Vivek's relation. It was clear that both being from different worlds , having different views and habits would have issues being together but the issues were never given a good base or closure. There were times I felt there could have been another conversation or another few lines about their feelings.

Keeping that aside ( since it doesn't take much pages ) , Powerplay is an engaging read. A satisfying story with a genuine plot and a well written story.

Rating : 4/5

Pages: 300
Publisher: Fingerprint Publishing
Published: May 2013
Language: English
ISBN: 9788172344573

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mind Locks by Amias

My thoughts on the book:
There are people who influence our journey as writers. For some of us, those people are family, and for others, they are friends. When I started out on my journey as a blogger, and poet, there were friends who I had never met and they influenced my journey in so many ways. I met a few of them, Nimue included, and I am happy for that. One person who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet is Amias, who I still call as my teacher and guide for a form of poetry – the acrostic. This book is hers, and it was sent by her from the United States, long back. As I try to rediscover my love for that poetic form, I thought I shall start with sharing my thoughts on her poems and reviewing this book.

It is difficult to do poetry when restricted by form. Some find the first aspect of the form and write on that, thinking that that’s all there is to it, only to discover more in it later on. That’s how my acrostic discovery has been. Amias shares with us her life in poetry. It has beauty in depth, and sometimes a little difficult to understand immediately. It takes time to set in. Sometimes, few lines of a poem just get to you, and you see yourself.

i’m tired of life; i’m tired of me
i’m tired of pain always catching me
most of all, i’m tired of running

Yes, I relate to this at times. Sometimes I just want to take a breath and stop going a million miles an hour. The pain of missing out some precious things later becomes unbearable, and makes me tired of life itself.

I also relate to the closing lines of an acrostic on the word Nocturnal

Nighttime’s quietness
A relaxing place to be, while
Living within the stillness of me

I guess a lot of writers might be able to relate to that relaxing night time when we aren’t disturbed while writing.

There are gems like this throughout the book, and you’ll find yourself going “wow”. There are others that are true to her, but not something we might understand. I like this book for those gems. I also am thankful for her words at the start that she writes to me. 

She’s been away from the blog world for a while now, but if she chances upon this somehow, I hope that she shall return to blog world and her meme which misses her touch, something that I have not been able to replicate though she handed it to me to manage.

Book Details:
Title: Mind Locks
Author: Amias
ISBN: 0-9776450-0-2
Genre: Poetry

Reviewed by Leo
Shared with First Reads at b00k r3vi3ws

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The City of Devi by Manil Suri

I was overjoyed to receive my first overseas mail carrying a book for review by Norton publishers. So far, I was aware of this publishing house's name for the critical content it printed on literary classics, and was pleasantly surprised to see Norton publishing contemporary authors with experimental narratives and genres. Taking up with novel with a slightly odd name - "The City of Devi" - was easy, since credibility was established by the very name and packaging of the courier I received. That Manil Suriwas a writer who could churn out an epic with an apocalyptal theme turned out to be a pleasant surprise waiting to be unfurled with the turning of pages of this book.

The City of Devi is an innovative, unique and adventurous novel. It dwells on a love triangle with a twist. There is a woman, and two men. However, contrary to what you might be already thinking, in this book, a woman, Sarita, and a man, Jazz, are both madly in love with a third person, a man -Karun - who is the mysterious, elusive figure in the book. It is Karun, however, who keep the two alternate strands of narrative, that of Sarita and Jazz, find a common ground to develop cohesively from. The rather tumultuous love saga of these three protagonists is set against the backdrop of an apocalypse waiting to happen - a nuclear strike on Mumbai, ready to wipe out the last trace of life from the island. In a classic tale of cross-border communal conflict, humanity is standing vulnerable and on the verge of being sacrificed for what are assumed to be conflicts of supremacy of divine powers. Mumbai only could be saved by its patron Goddess - Mumba Devi, recently resurrected in a Bollywood incarnation - Super Devi - giving more fillip to the blind adoration of gullible multitudes. And amid all this mayhem, two, no three, lovers are eagerly searching for an opportunity to unite with each other, after eliminating the 'other'.

This novel doggedly follows the quest motif - a rather effective one in stories which deal with the pains and ecstasies of love. Love is, it goes without saying, the underlying theme. In addition to it, theme of communalism, humanism, hypocrisy, apocalypse and homosexuality have been adequately dealt with in the book. With sensibility and gusto. Dystopia, towards which the real world too is fast spiralling, is another prominent theme. The novel is rich with explicit content, and for the shy readers out there, I have to mention, Manil Suri does not believe in using innuendoes. A powerful strain of narrative, in fact, is developed around a pomegranate - a perceived aphrodisiac (about the veracity of which claim I have no clue!), and that pomegranate continues to be an inanimate, silent yet pivotal character in the book. Manil Suri also weaves together myths and memories in the story; especially curious is the way he deals with a rare interpretation of the concept of divine trinity.

The City of Devi is a work of passion, and intelligent story telling. It has elements which enthral a reader and keep drawing him deeper and deeper in the fiction which starts assuming dimensions of reality. An intriguing beginning and an out-of-the-box climax add perfection to an already great scripting. A grand cast of characters does not obfuscate a reader, because the main concern - the protagonists - are so well constructed and foregrounded. Witty dialogues and great use of embellished language make the reading experience rich and satisfying. Love and romance always work for the audience; but when supplanted with an element of impending doom, they acquire a texture of passion and urgency - a fact aptly exploited by the author. I could go on writing reams of material on they way this book influenced me, but for now, I will conclude by awarding it, in all humility, 4 stars on five. It is one great adventure to be a part of.

Book Details -
Author - Manil Suri 
Publisher - Norton
Published - 2013
Book Source - Review Copy
Genre - Fiction/Romance/Dystopia
Price - Rs. 499
Pages -  400


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