Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Update on The Book Lovers Club

The Book Lovers Club had a very interesting 1st meet where we discussed a slew of books, each one brought along one book to speak
about, and the authors discussed ranged from Picault, to Manto to
Coetze, amongst others.

A lot of discussion happened on which book should be the one for July,
and we finally decided on Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Palace of
Illusions because it is an interesting take of mythology narrated from
Draupadi's perspective.So this is the book we will read and discuss in the next meet.

Also, if anyone would like to send in reviews of any book they have
enjoyed recently, please do mail it in to us, will post on the blog.

So moving on we are now meeting on 1st August ,at Prithvi Cafe and will be joined by Gauri Dange,author of 3 Zakia Mansion who will read a few excerpts from her upcoming book 'The Counsel Of Strangers'

To read more about Gauri follow the links to the blog and

Do join us!The fun has just begun!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review : Extreme American Makeover

This is another Young Adult book I happened to read recently.A book by Mitali Perkins.This book also turned out to be an interesting read and I'd recommend it to all teenage kids out there to read and enjoy!

The book is Sameera Righton's story.Sixteen-year-old,Pakistani-born Sameera is the adopted daughter of America's Republican candidate for president, James Righton. As her father's presidential campaign heats up Sameera trades in her summer vacation for a crash course in becoming a celebrity!What Sparrow, as Sameera is fondly called by her friends, is most looking forward to is the fabulous makeover that the campaign manager, Tara Colby has in mind.So off go her jeans/ponchos replaced with knee high boots and snazzy dresses,make up and the works...after all she would be America's first daughter if her dad ends up winning.

What she is definitely not looking forward to is the paparazzi and all the negative things written about her, name changed from Sameera to Sammy to sound more politically correct to the Americans and more importantly being asked to stop blogging from her personal Sparrow id to a professionally handled and frivolous which she just can't relate with.

So should Sameera continue being a mute spectator to the PR  blitzkrieg or should she come clean on her personal blog and let Americans know who she is and speak her mind as the first daughter of America?

The book has a very different and interesting premise and not a typical fluffy romance.What you get is a level headed 16 year old girl who totally knows and speaks her mind.The book manages to give the reader an insight into the PR driven American Presidential elections.Interesting story though a bit slow to begin with but interesting enough to take you through to the end.A nice,breezy read.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review : Potato Chips

As soon as I saw the title of this book and read a bit about the author 15 year old Anshuman Mohan I got very curious to read it.Anshuman wrote this book when he was 13!I wanted to read what a 13 year old had to offer and whether he could keep the reader interested. This book successfully managed to keep me interested till the very end and I almost felt I was Aman's mom! Anshuman really needs to be patted on his back and encouraged to write some more. I am almost gushing about the book but yes it is a commendable first time effort by a 13 year old.

The protagonist of the book is Aman Malhotra who is moved from an easy going,friendly atmosphere of his old school Akshar into the big,bad world of St.Xavier's, Kolkata.He is absolutely unhappy with the move and finds it difficult to cope with the new school and has to struggle very hard to settle in and become a part of the new school. The book takes the reader through the ups and downs of Aman's life, his friendship with Ankit,Rohan and Sameer. Their antics almost take you back to your own school days and you can't help but chuckle reading about it.Almost like the school version of Dil Chahta Hai!

Aman is shown as an extremely intelligent child with a social conscience so when Aman gets to know that his tennis coach's son and friend young Shubho is stopped from playing tennis in the club he goes all out to help Shubho pursue his tennis dreams.The book also touches on the unrest in Kolkata after Nandigram , North East violence through the eyes of a young adult.

The book gets negative points for trying to make Aman some kind of a larger than life hero who is on a single minded make the world a happy place mission.There is nothing else I can complain about the book!

Its a book that every 13 year old school going kid will enjoy.A fun read.

(This book is published by Harper Collins India and is part of their Young Adult series) 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Barbara Kingsolver wins the 15th Orange Prize for Fiction

American author Barbara Kingsolver has won the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction with her sixth novel The Lacuna (Faber and Faber). Daisy Goodwin, Chair of Judges, who announced the winning author at the ceremony, said: “We had very different tastes on the panel, but in the end we went for passion not compromise. We chose The Lacuna because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Interview with the author of The Mythologist

Vamsee Juluri spent his childhood in film studios tagging along with his mother, a famous film star. He is presently a professor of media studies at the University of San Francisco and the author of two other books, Becoming a Global Audience and The Ideals of Indian Cinema (forthcoming). He also writes regularly about media issues for the Huffington Post. He recently published The Mythologist, a novel about the life of a child actor who was to play Krishna, and has now grown up to a life of anonymity, cloaked in myth and reality.

Here is a short Q&A with the author...

1] Your novel has as its protagonist- the failed hero. What were your motivations for taking a failure as the central character in this, an era that worships success?

The (nearly) failed hero of this novel may indeed seem odd in an age that fetishes a certain kind of success, but this can perhaps be more usefully read as a critique of the modern sense of individual agency. Parashuram, for all his solitary imaginings, is very much stuck in a non-modern or partly modern social space; it is almost as if he is nothing without Big Grandfather to some extent, and AK, a lot more. So although his belief in his own self is tenuous, it is his belief in something outside himself, the myths, so to speak, that redeems him.

2] As the title goes, Mythology is almost a character by itself. What does mythology mean to you?

I am still not sure what precisely mythology means to me, except the sense that these are stories that defy the conventional binaries of truth and falsehood, the sacred and secular, maybe even good and bad. One way to think about it would be to instead pose the question of who is "the mythologist" in the story. Is it Parashuram, the writer and believer of his own myths? Big Grandfather, the Gandhian myth-maker, or AK, the teller of incredible tales to simply get things done her way? Or maybe its the reader, whose beliefs are always his or her own.

3] The book shifts between narration and interior monologue...between the present and a fantasy world created by the protagonist. Does Parshuram ever emerge into reality?
I believe he does.

4] Why did you weave in the twin towers crash into the narrative?
A story about truth and deception set around this time simply couldn't avoid it. My first drafts of the novel were in fact directly centered around the xenophobic media frenzy that took place in the US leading up to the war on Iraq. Ultimately I moved away from the bigger questions and just chose to focus on the sort of effect a trauma like this could have on an illusion-prone individual who has also just had his identity stolen.

5] How much of real life experience has entered the narrative? Do you identify with Parshuram in anyway?
The sense of various places in the novel feels palpable to me when I look at it now. I find the characters a lot more distant though.

6] Who are your favourite authors, and which books are your all time favourite reads?
I must admit to having drifted into reading non-fiction almost the whole time I was writing the novel. I like Salman Rushdie for many of his books. Amitav Ghosh's Calcutta Chromosome ranks very high on my all time favorites for fun and for class discussions. In recent non-fiction I appreciated Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals.

7] Which, of all the myths, is your personal favourite and why?
I found an affection for the story of Dhruva while writing the Mythologist which still remains. The theme of self-banishment, exile, and finally a steadfast sense of surrender, all make spiritual sense in the modern age.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Clear Blue Sky

26/11, 9/11, 7/7

dates that have changed the way we see ourselves and those around us. Dates that have changed the world, and not for the better

Puffin India

is proud to publish

A Clear Blue Sky

Stories and Poems on Conflict and Hope

Foreword by N.R. Narayana Murthy

Why is the world getting increasingly fragmented? Is there a way for us to understand different viewpoints better?

In this collection, writers from India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan—Gulzar, Elmo Jayawardena, Manjula Padmanabhan, Poile Sengupta, Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, Subhadra Sen Gupta and others—write about various kinds of conflict in our society and history. Some stories are dark, others full of light and hope, and some outright funny as they portray mindless bigots for what they are.

When a church burns in Bangalore, the altar cloth ends up in the hands of Mubina, whose grandmother can clean and repair it like no one else; years after the Partition tore a friendship apart, two people try to find the happiness that was once within their reach; and while chasing away courting couples from the Delhi Ridge, a young thug learns a lesson about what really makes Indian ‘culture’.

Interspersed with poems that articulate pleas for peace and understanding, this collection is sure to start a conversation on religion, race, caste, and mindsets that divide us.

Puffin / Rs.150


Adithi Rao, Anasuya Sengupta, Asha Nehemiah, Bulbul Sharma, Elmo Jayawardena, Gulzar, Komail Aijazuddin, Manjula Padmanabhan, Paro Anand, Poile Sengupta, Ranjit Lal, Rohini Chowdhury, Subhadra Sen Gupta, Suchitra Krishnamoorthi

Q&A with Karan Bajaj

Karan Bajaj is the author of two contemporary Indian bestsellers Keep off the Grass and Johnny Gone Down. Together his novels have sold more than 100,000 copies to date making him one of the largest selling novelists in India. Keep off the Grass (2008) was a semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and shortlisted for the Indiaplaza Golden Quill Award, among other honors. Johnny Gone Down has topped bestseller lists since its release in May’ 2010.

We did a short Q&A with him on his latest book, Johnny Goes Down:

Your protagonist, Nikhil, is a guy who has everything going for him until his illfated holiday? What or who inspired this character?

I think emotionally all novels are autobiographical so in that sense, I think my own life experiences have inspired the novel. I deeply relate to the displacement, loss and failure that the protagonist experiences as I can to the unconditional love and friendship that he receives.

The situations in the novel are less autobiographical, but somewhere or the other, I have experienced somewhat similar things. When I was backpacking through Philippines, for instance, a sudden violent protestation broke out just in front of me as I was ambling aimlessly down the streets. People were shot and killed and I had to run for cover. Those kinds of events do make you wonder on how fragile life can be and how one, unexpected event can set off a chain of events in motion that can alter your life completely.

In JGD, that’s what happens to Nikhil. A sudden event in a vacation leads to his surreal twenty year Faustian search.

How did the title come about?

At its core, the novel is about the bizarre, almost surreal series of events that transform an Ivy League NASA scientist into first a genocide survivor, then a Buddhist monk, a drug lord, a homeless accountant, a software mogul and a deadly game fighter over a period of twenty years. In the protagonist’s view, it’s a downward journey (although I don’t quite agree with him!).

Your book covers quite a lot of ground, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Brazil, much research went into getting the location and the ambience for the settings?

All aspects of the novel are very thoroughly researched. Beyond my personal travels to all the places—Thailand, Cambodia, Brazil, Columbia, US and the extensive books/novels I’ve read set in these countries, films were very helpful in research as well. They added an extra dimension to my own visits to these places because of the very personal stories they narrated. For instance, the Cambodian portion of the novel is set in the Pol Pot genocide of 1974 when I wasn’t even born, so beyond reading historical books of that time, it greatly helped to see the Killing Fields which is a stark, visceral portrayal of that time and tells a deeply moving story of the bond between a genocide survivor and an American reporter. Having a visual sense of that era helped me place my own characters in that environment more realistically. Same with the research on Thailand, Brazil and Silicon Valley as well-I supplemented my travels with reading books and watching films of that era.

Your first book got a lot of interest from film makers, do we see a film coming out soon?

I’m completely indifferent to film deals and choice of actors etc. as I have no desire to be involved in the film-making process, nor do I find the film industry particularly fascinating or glamorous.

Eventually, I just hope a filmmaker with some level of empathy buys the rights so they can transfer the broader emotional/philosophical thoughts in the novel into film versus just make it a fast-paced, racy intercontinental adventure that the novel automatically lends itself to. That way the thought or the message behind the book can be relayed beyond the limitations of a book.

The path Nikhil's life goes through seems improbable. Did you face that while writing the story, that it just seems to improbable to be credible?

I deliberately wanted to stretch the boundaries of credibility yet not break them since Nikhil’s incredible journey was necessary to communicate a core thought of the novel: the joy of living a big, interesting life and how a life lived without a measure of adventure is perhaps one not lived at all. The broader idea in the book is that of an ordinary man slowly embracing his extraordinary destiny and realizing that he is actually richer for all his loss and failure. In that sense, its almost like a Greek mythos—a myth, an exaggeration to make a point, but one which is very believable.

As I read the very passionate reader reviews on blogs now, I think Johnny Gone Down has been able to achieve this task with a lot of success. The Indian protagonist is very identifiable and the bizarre, almost surreal events that characterize his twenty year intercontinental journey are incredible but leave a lasting, lingering impact on the reader’s mind.

How long did this book take to research and write?

I usually start with a big theme in mind and allow the story to work itself in my head for a while before I put pen to paper. The theme I was playing around for Johnny Gone Down was around success and whether a stable, even-keeled life is better than a rich, interesting life with towering ups and abysmal lows.

During this time, I was also backpacking for a year between jobs and traveled to some pretty interesting places and ended up meeting quite an odd assortment of people on the road and in youth hostels. Somewhere in the middle of the trip, I began to realize that no matter where I went, whether Cambodia or Brazil or Mongolia or India, there seemed to be more similarities than dissimilarities in people, feelings and ideas. Hence this incredible intercontinental journey of the protagonist began to fuse with the original theme.

So this story was playing around in my head for almost a year while I was traveling, but the actual act of writing took four or five months. I began when I was back in a job and had an apartment and a writing desk and a computer to myself once again.

If there is single thought you would like the reader to take from Johnny Gone Down, what would it be?

I would like readers to take away two things. One, living a big, funky life—traveling, being open to the many interesting turns that life keeps taking, pushing yourself to break the stable patterns of mediocrity that life boxes you into and living a clutter-free hippie sort of an existence within the parameters of society—makes for an interesting life.

Two, as Johnny realizes in his incredible intercontinental journey, the world is extremely flat, connected and generous.

Who are your favourite authors, and which are the books which have inspired you?

A lot of books have inspired me for different reasons. If I were to pick one novel, it would be Forrest Gump by Winston Groom. I’ve read it multiple times since I first chanced upon it as kid, and though the movie version was quite brilliant as well, the novel takes Forrest to even more interesting places—a space shuttle to Mars, a tropical jungle full of cannibals and a Hollywood blockbuster starring Raquel Welch, for instance. I’ve always been inspired by “unlikely hero”/ “ordinary men in extraordinary situations” stories and Forrest Gump is a near perfect example of that genre. It has been a great inspiration for my writing since it communicates inspiring, heroic thoughts without elaborately stating them, something I aspire to in my writing.

Closer, my favorite authors would be Upamanyu Chatterjee (English August), Mohsin Hamid (Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and Ruskin Bond (everything by him), who write about hope and loss; life and death; cynicism and happiness with situations that are even more “real” than real life.

Right now I’m re-reading the Bangkok Series-Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo and Bangkok haunts, a series of mystery novels written by a British lawyer based in Bangkok. I dig these novels both because of its gritty take on Thailand’s underbelly—snuff films, drug cartels, tantric practices etc—as well as the spiritually confused Buddhist detective protagonist of the novels, Sonchai Jitpleecheep. I’m an unsuccessful armchair spiritual seeker, and in that, I find myself relating very closely to the protagonist who is unsuccessful in his quest for Nirvana or enlightenment, but remarkably successful in solving some of Thailand’s most surreal, morbid crimes.

You work a regular day job, and are an author on the side? How disciplined do you have to be to be able to write?

I have no schedule or discipline for writing predominantly because I have no utilitarian goals for my writing. My only goal is to communicate an idea that I am deeply passionate about and I feel can make a difference to my reader’s lives. I feel no pressure to write just for the heck of it. So until I can crystallize the idea and figure out a credible, yet stretching fast-paced storyline in my head, I don’t put a word on paper.

Are you working on your next book? If yes, what is it about?

Not yet. I’m getting interested in mysticism and occult sciences as also in the importance of charity and giving back so it’s likely going to be some combination of these ideas. But that’s all I know right now. Before I begin writing another novel though, I think I need both silence and some new experiences to nurture the substance within. Otherwise I’ll end up recycling the same ideas in a different story.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Forthcoming Events at Crossword

Find below details on the events at Crossword Bookstores.

Event:                                   Book Launch
Titles:                                  Ten Much. Ten ordinary processes for extraordinary success
Author :                               AG Krishnamurthy.
Guest:                                  R. Balki, Chairman & Chief Creative Officer, Lowe Lintas, Mumbai
Publisher:                             McGraw Hill.
Date & Time:                       Friday, 18th June 2010 at 7:00 pm
Venue:                                  Crossword Kemps corner. 

Book Synopsis:
While Luck is a happening or an event and is accidental, Success is intended and acquired by a rigorous application of certain time-tested processes.
Ten Much is a collection of stories of people, some famous, some fairly unknown, who went on to be successful despite severe adversities being thrown at them. Simply by following a few basic processes.

The Author:
A. G. Krishnamurthy, Founder, Chairman and Managing Director of Mudra Communications, is currently the Chairman of AGK Brand Consult.

Event:                                    DVD Launch
Titles:                                    Bum Bum Bole
Guest:                                   Darsheel Safary & Ziyah
                                              Eagle Home Entertainment
Date & Time:                        Friday, 18th June 2010 at 6:00 pm
Venue:                                  Crossword Juhu.

Event:                                    Book Reading.
Titles:                                    The  Cure
Author:                                 Geeta Anand
Guest:                                   Mallika Kapur, Mumbai Correspondent, CNN International.
Publisher:                              Random House
Date:                                     Friday25th June 2010.
Time:                                    7.00 pm
Venue:                                  Crossword Kemps Corner.

Geeta Anand is a Pulitzer Prize winning senior writer for the Wall Street Journal. The Cure, a true story, inspired the Hollywood film Extraordinary Measures.

Oscar nominated film “Extraordinary Measures” (Starring Harrison Ford) was based on The Cure.

About the Book:
John and Aileen Crowley were on top of the world. With John’s brand-new Harvard Business School degree, a great job, and three beautiful children, they thought they finally had it all. Then their two youngest children were diagnosed with Pompe disease – a muscular disorder so rare that no company had yet developed a medicine for it. Overnight, everything changed. The children were given only months to live. But John Crowley refused to accept fate. Determined to find scientists who could develop an enzyme that would keep his children alive, John quit his job and invested himself and his life savings in a biotech start-up company. The company went on to make medical and business history. But the struggle wasn’t over yet, and scientific setbacks, accusations of conflict of interest, business troubles, and the children’s own worsening condition would test the limits of John and Aileen’s minds and hearts as they fought for a cure.

About the Author:
Mumbai-born Geeta Anand is a senior writer for the Wall Street Journal. She wrote two of the stories that won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in 2002. In 2006, she received the top business reporting honor, the Gerald Loeb award; and in 2007, she was awarded the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. She now specializes in health and biotechnology, and currently lives in Mumbai. A true story, The Cure is her first book.

Event:                                    Book Launch.
Titles:                                    Happiness at Work
Author:                                 Shri Kumar Rao
Publisher:                              McGraw-Hill
Date:                                     Wednesday30th June 2010.
Time:                                     7.00 pm
Venue:                                  Crossword Kemps Corner.

About the Book:

Learn to create resilience and happiness no matter what’s going on in your life
In these tough times, there are few people who are completely happy with the current conditions. From business executives to the everyday Joe or Jane, everyone seems to be going through a rough economic and personal crunch. But acclaimed business school Professor Srikumar Rao says that we can learn to create joy no matter what else may be going on around us.
Rao shows you that it isn't the negative thing that happens to you that causes your unhappiness, it's how you see it. Happiness at Work is a thought-provoking new title that moves the mind away from negativity and forces you to resist labeling situations as "bad", but rather seeing them as neutral.
The Happiness Choice provides:
·         Surprising ways of looking at change and problem-solving
·         Exercises that shift one’s perspective

Learn the vital wisdom necessary to achieving a joyful, successful life as you define it through greater resilience and a strong inner core. Get it now with The Happiness Choice.

About the Author:
Srikumar Rao, Ph.D. is currently an adjunct professor at London Business School and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in Marketing from the Graduate School of Business, Columbia University. He has a M. Phil. in Marketing from the same school in addition to an M.B.A. from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. His undergraduate training was in Physics at St. Stephen's College, Delhi University.

Event:                                    Book Launch & Reading
Titles:                                    The Monochrome Madonna
Author :                                Kalpana Swaminathan
Guest:                                   Chandrahas Chaudhary
Publisher:                              Penguin
Date & Time:                        Thursday, 1st July 2010 at 7:00 pm
Venue:                                  Crossword Kemps corner.

About the Book:
‘Sitara said, with awful distinctness, “I think I’m going to die.”
And that’s how I got stuck with the annual corpse.
Half an hour later I stood in an empty flat, alone with a stranger who was very recently, and very violently, dead.’
Rushing to Sitara’s aid, Lalli’s niece Sita is distracted by Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. Why is it monochrome? And what does it have to do with the body on the living-room floor?

Such questions are hardly relevant to the police in their hunt for the murderer. But Lalli is a detective who revels in curiosities, and she thinks otherwise.

A brisk thriller of deceit and intrigue, The Monochrome Madonna has Lalli at her most astute as she interprets the nuances of a murder without motive.

About the Author:

Kalpana Swaminathan is a surgeon and writer. She is the author of the novel Ambrosia for Afters and a collection of detective stories, Cryptic Death. She has also written six books for children. She shares the pseudonym Kalpish Ratna with Ishrat Syed, and their writings on science, the arts and literature appear in several publications

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mornings in Jenin

Mornings in Jenin

By Susan Abulhawa

Many many years ago, when I was still idealistic, and still in college and still believed the world was divided into the good and the evil, I read Leon Uris’s The Exodus. It was a powerful book. A book that seared me. Many years later I read that the book had been a propaganda device for the Israeli state. Whether this was true or false, the damage had been done. I no longer felt as sympathetic as I had once done for the Israeli people, driven to search for the promised land which had never been theirs.

Mornings in Jenin came as a shocker, this is the book, as is rightly said, which will do for Palestine what The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan, namely take the story of its people to the world. Written powerfully, this is a story written by a woman who has her roots in the Palestinian people and identifies with their stories. The novel lays before us the stark horror of a people uprooted from their land and forced into refugee camps because of an international decree that suddenly decides their land is part of another country. This is the voice of the Palestinians, which had long been absent in popular literature.

The story opens with the Abulheja family in their village of Ein Hod, near Haifa, a regular rural family with their loves, marriages, fights, farming and regular life. Their idyllic life is interrupted by the nakba of 1948, the catastrophe which is barely spoken about in popular literature. Their village is shelled, they are driven out of their home by the UN forces, and they are wounded, humiliated and end up in a camp in Jenin, where they realise that the world does not know their plight. The Mornings in Jenin of the title is the state of limbo the Palestinians are, as they live out their lives in a refugee camp, dispossessed of their ancestral lands and homes, robbed of their dignity, their freedom. They struggle to make meaning of life in a refugee camp. As olive harvest season comes close, Haj Yehya, the family's patriarch, defies the Israelis by sneaking across the line to go to his olive groves. He returns with the olives from his trees. He never makes it back, the next time he goes.

We now move through the decades, through generations of living as refugees to the naksa of 1967, the bloody markers of Palestine’s history, the refugee camp massacres and the 2002 massacre at the Jenin Camp.

The main protagonist of the novel is Amal, who is a victim of shelling in the 1967 war, and the scars have injured her emotionally as well. She loses her father in the massacre and her mother withdraws into a shell, we see how the land is taken over by the Israeli state. Her brother, an infant is stolen in a stampede by an Israeli soldier for his childless wife, and is brought up as a Jew. Amal is placed in a convent, where she wins a scholarship for education in America, and goes to study there. She returns to visit her surviving brother, and falls in love with a Palestinian doctor. But life takes a twist, Amal is pregnant and returns to the USA, her husband who is to join her is killed. She brings up her child on her own, and returns when much older, when she discovers her infant brother, whom they assumed was lost in the stampede has actually been brought up as a Jew. Tragedy dogs her life. But the skilfull way in which Abulhawa weaves in the fictional with the facts makes the book a must read. Though the story is written from the perspective of a single family, the story is the story of all dispossessed Palestinians.

Abulhawa writes with a skill that lays out tragedy without sinking into pathos, there is the strength of steel in the narrative. The writing is rich in poetic prose, with metaphors abounding. The writing has the intimacy to make the reader feel emotionally attached with the characters, even though the story moves through three generations. The end is tragic. Yes, though with hope. This is the book you must read to understand the Palestinian side of the Middle East conflict.

(Reviewed by Kiran Manral)

Calling all Mumbai book lovers...

Thanks everyone for expressing an interesting in starting this book

club. The idea for this came up as an offshoot of the book blog

Priyanka and I do, called While we

did write about books we enjoyed reading, we felt it would be terrific

if we had a group of likeminded souls to get together to conduct

offline discussions on interesting books, and do a book of the month

read, where we all could read a single book for the month, and get

together to discuss the book, to get varying perspectives on the book.

We also want to invite authors to read, discuss their work with us.

Living in the suburbs, getting into town for events becomes difficult,

therefore we were looking at building a suburb based group.

Please do forward the group link to any of your friends who might be

interested in joining up, and lets brainstorm for a book for July. Any


Monday, June 14, 2010

My Review:My Friend Sancho

This has been one book I have been wanting to read ever since it launched as there were lots of good reviews about the book.I don't know if I am the only one on this but many of my book buying decisions are taken on the basis of the book cover!Honestly...a story may sound good to read but if the book cover is not attractive I usually don't end up buying it.I faced a similar dilemma with MFS's book cover!It had a lizard on its cover and for me anything that's a creepy crawly is an absolute no-no.So every time I entered the bookstore I looked at the book and just shook my head with regret.If we get talking about book covers I think Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's cover designs are so brilliant and awesome!

Okay that is getting a bit off the topic back to the book review I finally managed to get over the cover and recently picked up the book from Crossword.The story revolves around a journalist Abir Ganguly who works for a tabloid and is assigned as a crime beat reporter.While on the job one day he ends up being a witness to a police encounter gone wrong.He files a short report on the incident and forgets all about it until one day his editor asks him to do a story on the encounter and how an innocent got killed due to incorrect police information.He is asked to write about the man who died,Mohammed Iqbal, in the encounter with the help of his daughter Muneeza (Sancho) and his employer Meenakshi.Over a few meetings a friendship forms between Sancho and Abir.Sancho is unaware that Abir was present at the time when the encounter took place.Will the truth, when revealed end their friendship?

So that's the story in a nutshell. When I picked up the book I felt the book will give us an insight into tabloid journalism.The life and times of a journalist who works for a tabloid newspaper and on reading the first five pages I felt I had made the right decision and the story would be a good read but sadly the book was highly  disappointing.Unfortunately the book after the first few pages veers into inanities,the wise cracks that Abir spews become annoying.The writer seems to have got totally confused as to how to proceed with the book whether he should make the book an insight into tabloid journalism,a love story,or make it a funny/sarcastic chronicle of Abir Ganguly's life.

Since this book was loved by many going by the glowing reviews this book got I might be a much hated person for admitting this, but the book was far from good and failed to sustain my interest till the end.

I might be disappointed with the debut book but I look forward to Amit Varma's next in the hope that the next will have a definite plot,well etched characters,and the author is in total control of where the book is heading and what story he is trying to convey to the reader.

A bit about the author :

'My Friend Sancho' is Amit Varma's debut book.Amit Varma is a journalist turned writer.He is a very well known for his blog India Uncut .He has written for The Wall Street Journal ,The Guardian and The Observer as well as many Indian publications and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Terror on the Titanic:A Morningstar Agency Adventure

Samit Basu's new book 'Terror on the Titanic:A Morningstar Adventure Series' is to be launched soon by Scholastic.This book is Samit's first Young Adult Novel and also the first in 'A Morningstar Adventure Series'.

I got a chance to read the first chapter and if it is anything to go by the book is sure going to be an interesting read.Do read the first chapter of his book here


About the book :

The Morning Star Agency is an organization that has existed across the world for many  centuries. Its agents are powerful, charismatic individuals; some more than human, some merely unique. It is rumoured that the Agency President, Mr. Morningstar, is immortal, and  has had a remarkable degree of influence on our history. 
Terror on the Titanic, the first case report to be released from the Agency archives, stars agent Nathaniel Brown, a young Anglo-Indian man with many strange talents – he can speak to animals, has incredibly sharp senses and the skills of many jungle creatures. He owes these to his training – his (very famous) father was raised by wolves.
It’s 1912, Brown is on the Titanic, and his mission is to prevent a stolen jewel from reaching  America.
Simple enough, except that monstrous aliens are also involved.
And since this a Morningstar Agency adventure, the fate of our world hangs in the balance.

About the Author

Samit Basu is an Indian writer of novels,short stories,comics and screenplays.He has written three bestselling fantasy novels,The Simoqin Prophecies,The Manticore's Secret and The Unwaba Revelations, as well as several short stories in anthologies for adults and children.In comics, Samit has written two series,Devi and The Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma, and a graphic novel, Untouchable, co-written with Mike Carey (The Felix Castor series,Lucifer,X-Men)

Attention all authors: From Gouri Dange

Gouri Dange, the author of 3, Zakia Mansion, has a wonderful offer for authors who wish to make a promotional stop at Pune:


Any writer (who is not an axe murderer) having a reading or launch in pune and whose publisher does not have the grace to put him/her up in a hotel for the day or night, is welcome to stay at my place. I will take them to their launch and bring them back too if I can. And Iwill mail people about his/her launch/reading so that there is a good turn out of real readers.

Please convey this to anyone that you think needs to know this, young and old. I find quite a few writers come, and then make the tiring and not altogether safe journey at night right back to Mumbai. Or they come into Pune and don't have anywhere really to take a small break and freshen up before their launch.

I would be happy to save anyone that trouble/awkwardness if they need a place to park briefly for a day, a night.

I have dogs, though. friendly ones, but dogs - shedding fur, fetching spitty toys, occupying the best seats, etc. there is also the danger of us telling endless dog stories to the writer-visitor and hoping these stories will be immortalized in print. (no just kidding - will whip the curs and lock them up and not mention them).



New Book: Cinema Bhojpuri

Bidesiya, Balma 420, Nirahua Chalal Sasural, Gangotri . . .

If you haven’t heard of any of these blockbusters,

here’s your chance to discover the amazing world of Bhojpuri cinema.

Penguin Books India

is proud to publish

Cinema Bhojpuri

by Avijit Ghosh

Cruel landlords, crafty moneylenders, corrupt politicians, righteous heroes and uninhibited dancing girls—just some of the characters of a successful Bhojpuri film. Often considered kitschy and crude by ‘polite’ society, Bhojpuri cinema has had astounding success from the 1990s onwards, which can only be explained by its overwhelming popularity among the other half of new India. What is it that makes Bhojpuri cinema tick? What is the logic of its aesthetics? And most importantly, how did these regional language films become a profitable industry?

Answering many of these questions and written with a deep sensitivity for the genre, Cinema Bhojpuri is the one of the first studies of the history and themes of Bhojpuri cinema—the poor cousin of Bollywood. Basing his research on extensive personal interviews and analyses of trade journals from the 1960s onwards, Avijit Ghosh’s fascinating study unveils much about Bhojpuri cinema—from the making of the first Bhojpuri film, Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo, to the terrible lows of the 1980s when Bhojpuri cinema all but died, and right down to the present when the breathlessly-paced masala entertainers of Manoj Tiwari, Ravi Kishan and Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ gave life to what Hindi cinema had left behind—rural India.

Penguin / Rs. 399

About the author

Avijit Ghosh graduated in history from St Xavier’s College, Ranchi and completed his Masters and M.Phil degrees from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Born in Agartala, Tripura, he grew up in the small towns of Bihar and Jharkhand—Dumka, Giridih, Arrah and Ranchi. He has been a journalist since 1991 and has worked with the Press Trust of India, Pioneer and Telegraph, and is now with the Times of India. Ghosh writes regularly on cinema and sports, and is the author of the novel, Bandicoots in the Moonlight, published by Penguin Books India. He lives in New Delhi with his mother, wife, and two naughty children, Abhishek and Diya.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Book: The Mythologist

Penguin Books India

is proud to publish

The Mythologist

A Novel

by Vamsee Juluri

“Pashu, Parshuram, liar cock, child star, devotee in equal parts of the luscious Baby Devi and Lord Krishna, son of plastic surgeons, grandson of Industry, is one of the most charming heroes you are likely to meet in a month of Fridays. This is a first-day first-show of extraordinary assurance.”—Jerry Pinto

‘As a child, I was a god. Now, if only that were true, what a beautiful story my life would have made. The truth was, I was only almost a god.’

Growing up in the film studios of Madras in the shadow of the Emergency, P. Parashuram wants nothing more than to play Lord Krishna in a biopic his Big Grandfather, legendary director of subversive epics and Father of the Industry, will make for him. This never happens. The Industry betrays Big Grandfather, he fades away, and the only realities that remain in young Parashuram’s life are the myths that fuelled his grandfather’s films and his solitary, overactive imagination.

After a desultory stint at boarding school, Parashuram comes back to the charred world of his grandfather’s dreams. He has just settled down to a life of quiet despair when a woman we know only as A.K. bursts into his life—a fast-talking, well-connected wheeler-dealer who becomes his elder sister, takes him to America and gives him a job. But even as Parashuram’s life looks up, airplanes crash into the Twin Towers and he is stranded in San Francisco, alone, paranoid, and without a passport. When he tries to confront and make sense of events, Parashuram finds that all he has is the fantastic world of goddesses and gorgons of his beloved myths.

Penguin / Rs.299

About the author

Vamsee Juluri spent his childhood in film studios tagging along with his mother, a famous film star. He is presently a professor of media studies at the University of San Francisco and the author of two other books, Becoming a Global Audience and The Ideals of Indian Cinema (forthcoming). He also writes regularly about media issues for the Huffington Post.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yann Martel's :Beatrice and Virgil

Yann Martel's new book 'Beatrice and Virgil' is out in the stores. I haven't yet got a chance to read it but came across this review which I felt must be shared with our readers who could be interested in the book.It is reviewed by Aravind Adiga author of 'The White Tiger' and 'Between The Assassinations'.  'The White Tiger' which was his debut novel won him the much coveted Booker Prize in 2008.So here's his review:

Thanks Aravind for sharing the link!

A bit about the book

When Henry, a prize-winning writer who wants to write a book about the Holocaust, finds a letter from an elderly taxidermist on his doormat, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled closer to the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey—named Beatrice and Virgil—and the epic journey they undertake together.
With all the charm and spirit that drew seven million readers to Life of PiBeatrice and Virgil takes the reader on a tremendous and powerful imaginative journey. On the way Martel asks profound questions and leaves you reflecting on the nature of human cruelty, kindness, moral engagement and moral compromise, life and art, and the liberating power of stories.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Following Fish

Following Fish: Travels Around The Indian Coast

Samanth Subramanian

Published by Penguin
Reviewed by Kiran Manral

This is THE book to read if you are one who is fond of his fish, fried or curried. A collection of nine essays that explores India's coastline through its fish, the book promptly starts with a state where fish is a revered delicacy, namely, the hilsa in Bengal. The author goes into fish markets, where he learns to distinguish between a hilsa from the Ganges and a hilsa fish from the Padma, and into five star kitchens where he sees how the hilsa is prepared. And finally, he learns, like a true Bengali to chew a piece of hilsa in such a way that he can separate the bones from the flesh with his tongue. Much hilsa is sampled along the way.
From here, the author goes down to the South where he actually eats a live fish stuffed with a miracle cure for asthma. He visits the Bathini Goud family of Hyderabad who offer a medicine stuffed in a murrel fish once every year to asthma patients.The essay is extensively researched and does not offer an answer as to whether the medicine actually has any benefit or just a matter of faith healing, the author leaves it open for debate.
His essay on Kerala focuses less on the fish, and more on the toddy shop culture where he finds, to his consternation, that they are at times, not welcome customers. The fish factor is the spicy fried karimeen which people order along with the toddy. According to the toddy shop owners the spiciness makes people order more toddy, even in a set up where people just come to get a quick high and leave. Rather than sit and drink at leisure.
He goes onto Mangalore, where he searches high and low for the perfect Mangalore fish curry he remembers, only to realise (and taste) that the perfect fish curry will only be found in homes. And in Mumbai, he tries to understand the subtle difference between Malwani and Gomantak cuisines, both of which are heavily fish based.
The collection ends in Gujarat, which doesnt have a fish eating culture as so Subramanian focusses on the boat breaking culture that is part of the economy
Intensively researched, and very well written, Following Fish is a must read for anyone who likes their fish, tawa fried or curried.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Corruption Conundrum

New release from Penguin:

The Corruption Conundrum

and Other Paradoxes and Dilemmas


How can you be ‘a well-known secret agent’? Why is ‘the only voting method that isn’t flawed a dictatorship’? How is it that ‘Corruption is universally disapproved of, and yet universally practised’? The world of dilemmas and paradoxes touch our lives on a regular basis.

In The Corruption Conundrum and Other Paradoxes and Dilemmas, V. Raghunathan, the author of the best-seller Games Indians Play, shares the charms of some of the more interesting examples allowing us to delight in the excitement, mystery, confusion, exasperation and that occasional flash of clarity and enlightenment often experienced when the world of paradoxes and dilemmas hits our own. The book takes the reader through some of the fascinating illustrations, classical and well known as well as the less common examples, in the field of management, finance and work life.

Following the same easy, readable style of his previous best-seller, Games Indians Play, this new book should make absorbing reading and will certainly make you more curious about the world that surrounds us.

Portfolio Rs. 450

About the author

V. Raghunathan was an academic for nearly two decades. In 2001 he joined the corporate world as president, ING Vysya Bank. He is currently CEO, GMR Varalakshmi Foundation, part of the GMR group, an infrastructure major. Since 1990 he has also been an adjunct professor at the University of Bocconi, Milan, lecturing on behavioural finance.

Raghunathan has published over 400 academic papers and popular articles, writing regular columns in the Economic Times and in MINT. He has written six books including the best-seller Games Indians Play (Penguin, 2006).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Reading:The Immortals of Meluha

Book Reading event

Event: Book reading of The Immortals of Meluha
Start Time: Saturday, June 5 at 6:30pm
End Time: Saturday, June 5 at 8:30pm
Where: Vashi - Inorbit Mall, Inorbit Mall atrium, Navi-Mumbai - 400 705

To see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:

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Q&A with Kalpana Swaminathan

Kalpana Swaminathan is a surgeon and the author of the novels Ambrosia for Afters and Bougainvillea House, and a collection of detective stories, Cryptic Death. She has also written six books for children. She shares the pseudonym Kalpish Ratna with Ishrat Syed, and their writings on science, the arts and literature have appeared in several publications. Kalpana Swaminathan’s Lalli is the first genuine Indian detective in the English language. Her latest book, The Monochrome Madonna is the third book in this very popular series.
Razor sharp, witty, independent and something of a loner, Lalli, a retired police inspector in her sixties, has earlier appeared in two previous books: The Page 3 Murders and The Gardener’s Song.

Here's a short Q&A with the author:

1] India has had a dearth of well written detective fiction. What would you attribute this to?

India has a dearth of Indian fiction. We have plenty of writers and so many write so well—but how many of their books do you notice in bookshops? They aren’t visible enough. Indian fiction makes up less than 5% of the display!
Detective fiction’s just one more wall flower.

2] Lalli is a lady detective, perhaps the one thing she shares with Miss Marple. What or who were your inspiration for creating this character?

Miss Marple was created 80 years ago—and there have been so many women detectives before and after her. It’s a vast sisterhood. Hey—you just gave me an idea for a new book!
Lalli isn’t inspired by anyone. She’s her own person

3] What is the most challenging part about crafting a detective-mystery novel?

Not to feel challenged! Ease is everything. Writing is pure pleasure, and it defeats the purpose when you have to work at it.

4] With each Lalli mystery, have you seen Lalli evolve as a character?

That’s a question for the reader, actually. For me—I keep pace with the narrator’s relationship with Lalli. How much does she see and understand of the woman she lives with? It’s a question of great interest to me in all relationships—the point when identity escapes the constraints of the relationship and becomes individual. And that’s when a relationship truly begins. I try to keep that pace in fiction too.

5] Who are your favourite mystery writers/characters?

Naturally, Mr Sherlock Holmes. The rest are just chaff.