Monday, February 22, 2010

5 days 5 books a review by Anaggh Desai

Those who are active on twitter in India would definitely know @anaggh.Most of us from twitter world have re-tweeted his humorous and many a times his philosophical tweets.He has made me laugh whenever I am feeling low with his tweets.

With due permission from him I have taken this from his blog since it makes an interesting read.Read and Enjoy! Thanks Anaggh...hope to see more reviews from you with regards to book which I can share on this blog as well!

Indian Authors need to be IIT or IIM?

A dedicated fiction reader, who once upon a time used to complete a 400 page book during a Bombay - Delhi - Bombay flight including the waiting time at the airports; over the past year or so found my reading habits breaking away completely, more maybe from the fact that I do not travel at all these days, a little less from the fact that have been watching more movies, tweeting?
Having said that had decided to rectify the situation this year. Flipping thru Flipkartsometime a fortnight ago, saw some Indian authors, whose books sounded simple, in terms of story & price both. Ended up ordering the following:
Love, A rather Bad Idea….All it gives is a lousy hangover by Anirban Mukherjee
Zero Percentile..Missed IIT Kissed Russia by Neeraj Chhibba
Nothing can be as crazy by Ajay Mohan Jain &
The Dork by Sidin Vadukut (heavily tweeted on twitter by his well wishers)
Whilst this was in transit, I made a trip to Malvan and picked up a book at the Goa airport - Devil in Pinstripes by Ravi Subramanian having read his earlier ‘If God was a Banker’
Then overcome with work, did not even glance at those till, last week, when glancing through them, saw that most of them were 200 pages easy to read font & decided to go for them & so began:
Devil in Pinstripes - A good book taking a look at the Banking & financial segment, boss, mentor, couple relationship etc. nudging & offering some insight of what it is all about in a superficial way.
Dork - A good enough book, that gives an insight into Management placement, Consulting industry, taking a swipe at the perception & hype created vs how actually it works.

Zero Percentile
 - Halfway decent writing, that takes a look at lower middle class home, destiny mish mash. A book that can be missed without missing anything

Nothing can be as Crazy
 A decent book on the Banking Industry with neither a complete coverage on banking or institutional politics. There but cannot be there.

Love, A rather Bad Idea
 - A breezy book trying to convey that IIT has everything that the world can show and friendship, love, loyalty overcomes everything.
Having said that, some common factors which are not so surprising:)
Out of the 5 authors 2 are from IIT & 2 are from IIM or combination of both.
All the books can be called “ILIT” that has sex, loyalty, destiny, family & happy ending with of course IIT or IIM as background.
A bit of superiority “we were there, we are better, and now besides we can write” comes through.
The cost of the book is sub 200/- something like ‘chiclit’ take it on the flight & throw it.
As the DNA & Sunday Midday of 22nd February says that 1000 copies is enough to break even all of them have broken even, if nothing else but through their network, loyalty, friends & relatives.
What is painful is that such intelligent (obviously with IIT & IIM tags) people have chosen extremely mediocre, flat subjects to write their novels on, truly hope that they come out of their comfort zone & contribute more.
The Question this raises now is - “Do Indian Authors need to be IIT or IIM”
BUT in the end Hey they have written, published & people read, whilst I have not, so whilst this may sound, it is NOT sour grapes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review : Dork The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese

Parul  reviews the book:

Way back in 2004, when Sidin Vadukut first wrote his Travails I was not a blog reader or writer. Still, this post did the rounds as an e-mail forward and was cause for many giggles, guffaws and sniggers across cubicles. In the tradition of self-effacing humour, it clearly pulled out all stops. A few years later when I started writing a blog of my own, I discovered the phenomenon called Domain Maximus, a blog that never fails to tickle the funny bone and often draws the complaint that it is not updated frequently enough. Readers are not willing to accept that Sidin Vadukut may be busy in his day job as the managing editor of, his nearly-obsessive but consistently funny Twitter updates or writing his next book.

The first of the Dork trilogy arrived at my doorstep via Flipkart. The first and eminently pleasant surprise was the price of the book. At INR 149 (Rs 50 off, don't you just love Flipkart?), it doesn't hurt to pick up the book, even if one is just mildly curious about it. I read it in two days and that can only happen if the book engages at a personal level, at least when one is in the lifestage that I am in (child/ren running riot in the background), it is. Most bloggers turned authors will tell you that it is reasonably difficult to maintain one's voice as one makes the transition from hitting publish to will you publish me. It is almost as if the moment one decides that the time has come to pen the masterpiece that has been sitting in the old noggin, the creative juices all decide to dry up in a single, impressive flash. Sidin evades that admirably, managing to retain his trademark humour as he reveals the diaries of one Robert 'Einstein' Verghese - the dork, the hero.

If you have had the opportunity to meet a low on social skills - high on naivete MBA student, Einstein (an ironical dorm name bestowed on him by seniors) will come across as familiar. Ranked 41st in his batch at a WIMWI, Einstein manages to delude himself that Goldman Sachs and McKinsey and Co. all want him on Day Zero of placement day and the much-coveted foreign posting with a fat bonus waits just around the corner. Instead he finds himself at Dufresne, a mediocre, mid-level consulting firm where he bumbles along in his own inimitable style. Perhaps the MBA jokes are too contextual and the consulting satire too specific but the book still manages to hold one's attention and more importantly create some laugh-aloud moments. It would be interesting to know the reactions of readers who do not have any experience with products of the Engineering Graduate - MBA from premier institute - Consulting/Banking/PE Job cycle.

Back to Einstein - the desire to find love and sex (possibly in reverse order of importance) is also raging strong and he regards all the female characters in the book with the same lustful eye, without getting too much action. Basis some well-timed confusion and deception, he manages to go steady with the girl of his campus dreams, only to hanker after someone else.

All in all, a very good first effort and it would be interesting to see what else Sidin has in store for the readers in the remaining parts. We can never have enough funny writers, I say.   

So we have a guest review!

Woohoo we have a first guest review for Sidin Vadukut's book!The book is reviewed by Parul Sharma.Parul is a well known blogger in the blogosphere and a published author.Her book 'Bringing Up Vasu: That First Year' was published last year and I highly recommend the book to all mothers and wannabe mothers.

Thank you very much Parul for the review.It is an honor to have you writing for our blog as a guest writer!So the next blog post is the Review of Dork:The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese.

Remember I had invited all you people who love to read books and review them?Do send  us your review posts  at bookwelove[at]gmail[dot]com and we'd publish it here!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My review :The Diary Of A Social Butterfly

This book was another random pick while browsing at Crossword..and I must admit it has been worth every penny.I have laughed like never before..It was just so funny.But before we go to the story a little bit about the author :Moni Mohsin. Moni Mohsin writes a popular column called "The Diary Of A Social Butterfly' for Pakistan's Friday Times.Some of the selections from the column make up this book.Moni has grown up in Lahore and now divides her time between Lahore and London,where she lives with her husband and two kids.
So the story as the name predicts is that of Butterfly Khan who lives in Lahore in a 'big fat Kothi with a big fat garden' .She lives with her husband who she calls Janoo and their son Kulchoo.She is the typical high society lady who loves party-sharty,ball-shalls and lives life to the fullest ! Butterfly,the protagonist is shallow,obtuse and so full of may have seen or met a Butterfly at some point of your life.She is so engrossed in her social life that she is totally cut off from reality.The state of her country be damned,all she wants to do is be seen and heard at all important social functions.So the 9/11,Lal Masjid Siege,the US Afghan war and the death of Benazir Bhutto for her are just a hindrance to her social life.She shops at Harrod's in London,in America you see her buying in her words 'MAC ki lipsticks and D&G ka sent (read scent) and La Prarry (read la prairie) ki face cream and landcomb (read lancome) ka mascara' wears Jimmy Choo shoes and designer joras from the best designers the country has to offer.She is the star (or rather likes to believe that she is) the star of every page three party she attends.Janoo is the counterpoint to her silliness.. she calls him 'sarrhial' and 'buddha'  meaning cranky and old!She has a name for everyone Janoo's mother is the old bag his two sisters are the gruesome twosome.
Moni Mohsin has managed to give us a humorous and entertaining book on the party circuit of Pakistan or rather any country in the world.She has successfully managed to make  the character very believable
This book is a must buy for all the women out there.It's wicked,it's funny and really really entertaining!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life in the time of Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Life
By Gerald Martin
A biography of the life of an author who, to me, redefined the reading experience with his One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the time of Cholera, and my introduction to the genre that continues to fascinate me, magic realism! I approached this rather weighty tome with the rubbing handed eagerness I normally reserve for eat all you can buffets and the unabridged works of PG Wodehouse.
I kid you. Seriously though, the sheer size of the book scared my eyeballs out. Sure, I love Marquez and his work, but the thought of plodding through so much intricate detail about his life was daunting. Interesting yes, but daunting. After all, if this had been written by Marquez, and had he liberally thrown in his trademark magic realism I would have lapped the book up. Right now, I approached it with wariness. And it turned out I was right. For starters, this is not a book for anyone who has not read Marquez. And secondly, the author, Gerald Martin has spent close to two decades of his life researching this book, which in itself is a clear indication that this biography is not going to an easy read by any stretch of the imagination. Ironically of the years spent researching the biography, the biographer spends only a month in the company of his subject. But he does conduct around 300 interviews with family, friends, associates, detractors and acquaintances to gain a complete insight into the life and times of Marquez. He retraces the family tree, legitimate and illegitimate. He recreates the childhood homes Marquez grew up in, which formed the genesis of the fabulous dynastic family homes that feature in his works. In short, he has done his job as a biographer impeccably. Does he get an insight into the mind of the Nobel Laureate? The jury is still out on that.
An interesting anecdote here: In a January 2006 interview with a Barcelona newspaper, Gabriel García Márquez, whose memory had begun to fail, deflected a question about his past. “You will have to ask my official biographer, Gerald Martin, about that sort of thing,” he said, “only I think he’s waiting for something to happen to me before he finishes.” (Janet Maslin in The New York Times)
No, one has to concur that Martin is no Boswell to Marquez. There is no obsequiousness, no fawning. And perhaps the lack of poetic prose in the biography was essential in a book dedicated to a man known for the sheer lyricism of his prose.
Gerald Martin has studied 20th century Latin American fiction, worked on Latin American history and brings to the biography an indepth knowledge of the milieu in which Marquez wrote his works. Would I recommend this book? It is no easy read. I would state that straight off. For one it is the kind of book that is heavy. Literally and metaphorically. It is not the book you pick up to immerse yourself in while working on your tan on the beach. But if you are even remotely curious about the life of a writer who has singlehandedly created a literary genre which has redefined the way we look at fiction, this book is a must read. As a source of reference for students researching Marquez and his work, this book is invaluable.
(By Kiran Manral)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Confession of Sultana Daku

By Sujit Saraf

Fiction set in the past fascinates me, for the simple reason that it is to me a glimpse into an era gone by. The book opens on a night in a jail in the 1920s. To be precise, 7 July 1924, a notorious dacoit leader, Sultana Daku, is waiting to be led to the gallows the next morning. Sultana is the leader of a gang of Bhantu dacoits, low caste folk, notorious for theiving and robbery in the villages of the United Provinces. He waits for the arrival of Lt Col Samuel Pearce at the Haldwani jail where he is lodged. He then proceeds to tell Pearce the story of his life, which he wants to be written into a letter to his son who is lodged in another jail. High on charas and the reminscences of a man about to meet death, he tells the gora saheb the story of his life. A life that has been crammed with daring feats of heroic burglaries, narrow escapes, of life as a bhantu outlaw, his love for Phulkanwar, a nautch girl, and the betrayal that cost him his freedom and led him to the gallows.
Sultana believes his destiny was written to be a criminal, but he hopes that his son will have a different life. Although he wants his son to learn the tricks of the trade, it is in his hopes and fears for his son that we see the human face of the fearsome dacoit emerge.
The author had earlier written The Peacock Throne. The novel is not just a fictionalised account of the life of a dacoit, but a commentary on the social fabric of the times, a task skilfully done despite the narrative being in the first person.
On an aside, since the mother in law has grown up in the area around Haldwani, I did ask her if she has heard of the legend called Sultana Daku and to my surprise she had. And had apparently studied about him in her school text books. Which made the book all the more interesting to me, because this was a character who had existed, and who was a legend, whom the local people had grown up listening to stories about.

Reviewed by Kiran Manral

Monday, February 8, 2010


I know you must be wondering why have I chosen to review this book even though the second book 'Committed' by the author is already out  in the stores and is a sequel to the book I review today.I thought this review could help the person who hasn't read the first book get an idea of what the book is all about!

Let me start by saying that this book has been a bestseller, loved and adored by millions of women worldwide.A movie is also in the making based on this book by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The book has been translated into over thirty languages, with over 7 million copies sold worldwide.The book became so popular that, in 2008, Time Magazine named Elizabeth as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Unfortunately the book did not work for me...rather didn't enjoy reading it too much.(I am very certain I would be among a very few handful women out there who didn't enjoy the book!) 

The book is in Elizabeth's words One woman's search for everything .This book is her story and how after going through a tough time after a divorce she plans to take a break from work and go on a journey of self-discovery. The journey takes her through Italy,India and finally Indonesia.The entire journey helps her in putting her past to rest and moving on... to finally managing to find love.

Her journey begins from Rome,Italy.After her divorce from David she takes up Italian classes to learn the language and after a few months lands up quitting her job,her house and takes off to Rome where her only agenda is to learn to speak Italian fluently and of course EAT!So starts her stay in Italy where she meets interesting people like Luca Spaghetti,Giovanni who is her tandem exchange partner and his twin Dario.What Italy helps her do is gain weight while also helping her learn to speak the language more fluently!In her words 'I will leave Italy noticeably bigger than when I arrived here'...She discovers quaint eating places which serve the best pizzas and pastas.She manages to cover Bologna,Florence,Venice,Sicily,Sardinia,Naples and Calbria.Phew!The  stay in Italy is her first step in healing though not totally out of her depression and loneliness after the divorce!This journey she call her pursuit of pleasure.I wish I could also do something like this take a break and go on an exotic Italy trip ,meet Italian mamma's boys ...but more importantly not to lose  perspective here... eating food!! Dreams!Sigh!

Her next journey is to India and her step two in the healing process i.e. PRAY.She comes to India to spend time at her spiritual guru's ashram which is located in Maharashtra.Everyone in the ashram is given work to do and Elizabeth's first work assignment is to scrub the floors of the temple!The usual day starts at 3 am and could last up to 9 pm regularly.Hours are spent in meditation and contemplation so its not just rigorous physically but also psychologically.Initially she finds it very difficult to concentrate while meditating but with the help of Corella her room partner she trains her mind to concentrate on  the mantra she is chanting.Slowly and steadily she manages to succeed.Her stay in India she calls as her pursuit of devotion.This is also the part from which I stopped enjoying the book as I felt it became a bit too preachy for my liking.

After India she heads to Bali in Indonesia where she finds LOVE again.Her trip to Indonesia is to meet a man called Ketut who is a ninth generation medicine man,she had met him  on a prior work related trip to Indonesia.Ketut had on that trip asked her to return to Indonesia to teach him English and he in turn would teach her everything he knows...hence choice of Bali as her final destination 

During her stay in Bali she becomes friends with Wayan who is a Balinese healer and how she helps Wayan buy a house for herself and her daughter Tutti.She also meets Felipe ,a Brazilian man who loves and adores her with "such single minded concentration".The book ends on a very positive note that you cant help but feel a part of Elizabeth's happiness.There are no strings attached in their love story but she promises to keep in touch with Felipe before leaving for New York....
Again in this part too I felt a bit let down because it just tends to drag into her personal issues,problems and delves a bit too much into Wayan's story. 

I hear that in the sequel she ends up marrying Felipe...So I am pretty certain the book would have a lots of apprehensions,plots, indecisiveness.Not too sure if I'd want to read it!  

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Electric Feather

The Electric Feather
The Tranquebar Collection of Erotic Short Stories
Edited by Ruchir Joshi

At the outset, a collection of Erotic Short stories from the subcontinent had me interested and not just because of the erotic part of the subtitle. The short story format is one that interests me, the idea of narrating an entire event, creating characters that the reader can identify with and feel for within the limited perimeter of a short story is an art which few writers are able to achieve with any success. O Henry being one of the exalted few who have. And W Somerset Maugham. And another of my personal favourites, and paradoxically radically different from the genteel writing of the previous two authors mentioned, Hubert Selby Jr's Last Exit to Brooklyn. And of course, my personal God, Pelham G Wodehouse, who had a mastery over the short story and the intricate maneouvres of a detailed novel level plot which is unparalleled.
Which meant I had high standards in my head for this compilation. Which also naturally meant I would have to face a let down. Starting with the very first story. The phrase Erotic to me is delicate, nuanced writing which is not sexually explicit but sexually charged. It might mean something different for another. To me, sexual explicitness degenerates into porn. Erotica is tantalising, not all revealing. For the Bad Sex in Literature award this compilation has more than enough contenders. But let me focus on the saving graces within the book. The story that was truly superlative in the entire compilation was Kamila Shamsie's Love's Sunset, the seduction of the primal woman by the Sun. Sheba Karim's gentle story of a girl down on vacation, and infatuated by her aunt was subtly nuanced and written with the kind of restraint that makes writing superlative. Niven Govindan's story about a pair of gay lovers in Amsterdam, who are bound to each by a painful bond of hurting and pleasure makes for fascinating reading. Sonia Jabbar's The Advocate is perhaps the only story that stays closest to the premise of the short story with a definite narrative, and written with empathy and where the sex in the story does not seem gratuitiously chucked in to make it to the mandatory requirement of the compilation. Tishani Doshi and Meenakshi Madhavan Reddy are the other new writers who have contributed to this compilation, as has Rana Dasgupta and Abeer Haque. Sadly though, for a compilation of short stories from a land which has given us the Kamasutra and the love poems of Geet Govinda, The Electric Feather does seem like a good intention that lost its way, and doesnt quite make it to the Brindavan of the preface.

By Kiran Manral

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Museum of Innocence

The Museum of Innocence
By Orhan Pamuk

Reading Orhan Pamuk is always an experience one gets down to with the slightest frisson of anticipation and The Museum of Innocence was no different. Having just got my head around his previous work My Name Is Red, I wondered if this book too, would be as difficult to assimilate with multiple narrators and a complicated plot. I need not have worried. The book was delicate, nuanced and for me, unputdownable.
In his  previous novel, Snow, Pamuk took the headscarves, symbolic of religious morality and looked at them as indicative of a country ready to assimilate into the Western world. In My Name Is Red, his focus was on the Ottoman miniaturists back in the 16th century who were proscribed from depicting anything apart from what is acceptable by religion, and the formula, in an era where the European masters were breaking free to find their own individual styles, from an individual's perspective rather than what is accepted as the norm.
Instanbul is the protagonist of The Museum of Innocence. The story is rather wistful, rather like the Indian equivalent masterpiece Devdas, albeit with different characters caught in similar circumstances of longing and long unfulfilled. The story is intimate. A love story that tells the reader of the doomed love of kemal, a rich young resident of Instanbul who gets into an affair with a distant cousin Fusun, who is wholly unsuitable to be married to, because of her inferior social standing. In the interim, Kemal gets engaged to Sibel, who is a 'suitable girl' and Fusun distances himself from Kemal.
Like Devdas is unable to stand up for his love to his father and sinks into ruin and despair because of that one moment of spinelessness, similarly Kemal is unable to tell his family that he would rather marry Fusun than the more socially acceptable Sibel. In fact one gets the impression that Kemal assumes he would be able to give up Fusun once he is married to Sibel, only to find that with Fusun out of his life, nothing matters anymore except getting her back.
Kemal is supposedly running his father's export company but gradually slips into a dangerous obsession to woo Fusun back. He gathers together mementoes from their days together at the family's second apartment creating a Museum of Innocence. Everyday items like —"a porcelain saltshaker, a tape measure in the form of a dog, a can opener that looked like an instrument of torture, a bottle of the Batanay sunflower oil that the Keskin kitchen never lacked"—are hallowed and venerated because he associates them with Fusun and their short doomed relationship. The novel goes on to describe how Kemal collects the 4,213 cigarette butts smoked and stubbed out by Fusun, how he visits her family for dinner over 2,864 days, the obsession borders on Humpbert Humpbert's obsession with Lolita and is as raw and naked in its yearning. Shades of Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera peek through, in the scale of the monumental love that overtakes all the protagonist's sensibilities.
Through Kemal's disintegration as a man with promise into a middle aged drunk obsessed with Fusun and having given up his entire career in the hopes that he would woo back Fusun, one feels a repulsion mixed with curiousity and empathy for the way a man loses himself in a love which is plainly, not to be. The end of the love story comes as no surprise, when Fusun finally agrees to marry Kemal, and then drives herself and Kemal into a horrific crash, one realises with a sinking feeling that the love not fulfilled is always more all pervasive than the love story that succeeds despite all odds.
Running parallel to the story is the evolution of Turkey as a society on the fringes of the Western world, and still moored deeply to tradition. Set in the late 1950s through the 1960s, the narrative is a fond reminscensing of a city that was divided almost schizophrenically into those mired in the headscarves and religion, and those who adopted the ways and manners of the more liberal Westernised world.
It is a long journey for Kemal to where he wants to be. Breaking his engagement to Sibel. Courting a naturally suspicious Fusun, convincing his mother that he would marry Fusun, and finally their coming together after nine years, only to have her die in a horrific crash the very next morning. His wooing of Fusun over nine years of daily dinners in her modest home, his filching of everyday objects from her home, like a fetishist, is what adds the pathos to the novel. Symbolically, Fusun, who is a bleached blonde in the first half of the book, returns to her natural black hair colour in the second half, the half that has Kemal turn his back on the ways of the Europeanised strata of Instanbul society and checks into a seedy hotel in the impoverished sector of Instanbul.
The protagonist meets the author in his quest to set up a museum dedicated to the memory of Fusun, and Pamuk very kindly talks to the protagonist about his memories of Fusun, having entered the narrative as a character during Kemal's doomed engagement party to Sibel, in a Hitchcockian device that he often uses in his novels.
The Museum of Innocence is a book that stayed with me for days after I had completed it, overwhelming me with a sense of loss and despair that had nothing to do with the loss of the possibility of a life together that the lead characters suffered. Instead, it haunted me with its implied message that obsession in love can obliterate an individual completely. And ironically, we are never quite rid of the niggling feeling, that despite the altar that Kemal puts Fusun up on, she is possibly just an ordinary shopgirl.
Reviewed by Kiran Manral

Monday, February 1, 2010

My review :Karl aaj aur Kal

Author of this book is one of India's best known MTV VJ Cyrus Broacha.Cyrus B and MTV Bakra were synonymous and a huge hit on Indian Television.He now hosts a show for CNN IBN called 'The Week That Wasn't' .It's a surprise that not many people are aware of his debut novel.I must say the book is immensely hilarious and very funny from the word go.The man can surely make you laugh.

The story is about Karl Marshall and his friend Kunal (draws inspiration from the real life pals Cyrus and Kunal)who are best buddies and are the average regular Mumbai boys, its their journey from school through college and beyond.Its narrated in a very tongue-in-cheek manner.

You see them through school,their college years at Xavier's College after which they decide to pursue an acting course in NYC and that too from Lee Strasburg Acting Studio! While studying there they are auditioned for a Hindi movie and get selected.On their return to Mumbai they become friends with the lead actor of the movie Yusuf Khan. The trio become instant friends and thereafter start a movie production house that keeps starring the three of them in a Munshi brothers franchise.

After becoming a super success and a Superstar Karl steps into the next obvious choice for any film actor which is POLITICS he becomes a South Mumbai candidate for ...hold your breath guys ....PYJAMA PARTY!!He manages to win the elections as well!

A good read though it dragged a bit at the end.It did become a bit tough to read till the very end. That can be easily forgiven as Cyrus manages to keep us laughing throughout the first half of the book.