Friday, July 30, 2010

Q&A with Sarita Mandanna, author of Tiger Hills

By Kiran Manral

Sarita Mandanna was born and brought up in India and worked in Hong Kong before moving to the US. She is a private equity professional with a PGDM from the Indian Institute of Management and an MBA from Wharton Business School. Tiger Hills, her debut novel, is an epic saga and a love story set in Coorg. We spoke to her about her writing, her inspirations and her tips to aspiring authors.

Tiger Hills is a magnificent novel, spanning decades. What were your inspirations for the character of Devi (either fictional or real life)?

Devi in the aggregate is fictional. Being from Coorg, and with a significant amount of family still there, I was concerned that I would end up ruffling feathers, however inadvertently, were my characters to mirror actual people or their lives. Having said that, there are bits and pieces of Devi that are rooted in reality. Her appearance for instance – pale, delicate – draws on the women in my family. My mother, her mother before her. A great aunt whose skin was so translucent, they say you could see the water trickle down the inside of her throat as she drank! Then there is Devi’s inner fortitude, which is also based on the women I know or have heard of – the most gently, softly spoken souls imaginable, but each possessing a backbone of steel. My paternal great- grandmother for instance was widowed very young. She brought up her children single-handedly while managing the family property, stalking up and down her fields with a dagger tucked into her sari. That tenacity of spirit definitely permeated my pen and the characters in Tiger Hills.

How do the comparisons with novels like Gone With The Wind and The Thornbirds affect you?

Given how enduringly popular both those novels have proved to be, I’ll take the comparisons as a compliment! In all seriousness though, the stories of all three are different; I believe what people are responding to when they make the comparisons are the period settings, central female protagonists and an “epic” or “saga” form of narrative that spans decades and is multi- generational.

You write about Coorg. How much of your childhood experiences do you bring into the narrative?

Tiger Hills is a period novel, beginning in 1878 and there was a significant expanse of canvas that had to be painted in colors not of my experience. Still, Coorg is so much a part of me that it was an easy backdrop to recreate. I could write lovingly about the place all day long (or all night, as was the case with Tiger Hills!). It is the cornerstone of my childhood memories – balmy summer afternoons spent roaming the fields and backwaters, lazy mornings in the shade of the coffee bushes, watching the sun set behind the jackfruit trees and listening to the crickets come alive at dusk.

Your day job as a finance professional and making time to write must have been difficult. How long did it take you to research and write the novel?

Tiger Hills was five years and counting in the making. It wasn’t an easy time – there were days when I seriously questioned my sanity for taking this on. While there is a degree of poetic licence at work in Tiger Hills, I wanted to get the historical detail as accurate as possible. That required a significant amount of research. I spoke with a great grand aunt who was well into her nineties, tilling her memories of a Coorg well before my time. I spent hours at the New York Public Library reading memoirs from that period, volume after dry volume of the Gazetteer of Mysore, and accounts of coffee planting in the 1800s. I was lucky to have a rich fount of Coorg folklore and tradition in the Pattola Palame, an English translation of old Coorg folksongs, proverbs and customs - this latter proved invaluable in recreating Coorg from a 150 years ago. I wrote whenever I had the time – typically late into the nights and on the weekends when I wasn’t working. I slept very little and am still a recovering insomniac as a result – there is at least one night a month where no matter what, I am unable to sleep at all.

Tiger Hills is about unfulfilled love, Devi's and Machu's and Devanna's love too for Devi. What would you like the reader to take away from the novel?
To my mind, the unfulfilled love stories in Tiger Hills are an instance of a larger theme – what happens when life doesn’t go your way. What do you do when your dreams do not come true? We are often placed in circumstances not of our choosing, but I believe that we still have a choice when it comes to reacting to those circumstances. Time spent in bitterness and regret is time lost forever. No matter what, we can still choose happiness; we can still find happiness. Happiness different in shape and form than what we had perhaps imagined, but one that is richly veined nonetheless.

Tiger Hills received an unprecedented advance which created a buzz about the book, did that add to the pressure of writing in any way?
I was already done drafting Tiger Hills by then, so there was no added pressure. It was embarrassing, more than anything else, to be suddenly thrust into the spotlight, and to see vastly inflated accounts of the advance I had supposedly received!

Who are your favourite female literary characters, and why?
Jo from the Little Women trilogy – I love her large heartedness. Jane Eyre – quiet, unassuming Jane but with a core inner strength. The Rani of Jhansi – historical Queen yes, and also the literary heroine of the Hindi poem. That line “Khoob ladi mardani woh to Jhansi wali Rani thi" gives me gooseflesh. George of the Famous Five – because she was brave and no nonsense and also owned that lovely dog Timmy. Speaking of which, is Lassie allowed? Smart, faithful Lassie?

What are you working on next? Will there be a sequel to the story?
I am in the process of researching something new. It is very different in period and setting from Tiger Hills, and I am poking around the subject, trying to determine if there is enough there to warrant a full blown novel.

Any advice you would like to give aspiring authors?
To borrow from Nike: Just Do It. That story you have clattering about in your head? That wonderful turn of phrase you’ve been saving for your magnum opus? Commit it to words. Start now, not tomorrow or when you are done with this project or that deadline at work. Sit down and write, and write your best. Be honest with yourself – cut what doesn’t work and retain only what truly resonates with you. If all you can manage are a couple of paragraphs a day, that’s fine. Even that small measure of daily output will add up to something significant provided you commit to it. Just Do It

Calling all budding writers!

We got this mail today from Jaya Bhattacharji Rose. She is a Consultant Editor with Puffin and is interested in meeting up with new as well as seasoned authors for Children and Young Adult Genre. If interested, please do write to her.


I just stumbled across your blog and loved it. 

I am a Consultant Editor with Puffin. It is the children's and YA imprint of Penguin Books India. I would be interested in meeting/touching base with new and seasoned authors who would like to brainstorm/submit mss (fiction and non-fiction) for children and YA, alike. Also, if there are any recommendations for titles that we could consider for Puffin Classics and Puffin Lives. Please let me know or email me  "

Jaya thanks for your feedback about the blog.Such comments keep our motivation levels high and make our day!

Also, dear readers, we would love to get your comments/ feedback/ suggestions/ reviews. Do write to us at

Come on,write to us,make our day!

The Counsel of Strangers by Gouri Dange

Reviewed by Kiran Manral

This, the second novel from counsellor and author Gouri Dange, is a book that is a compilation of stories, the stories of strangers thrown together at a wedding of someone they are not particularly close to, a wedding they have to be present at for the sake of appearances.

A motley crew of people, a retired air force man, a nurse, a professor, a young boy, a disgraced news anchor, a voice over artist, move out of the wedding celebrations to a viewing gallery at a little distance, where inhibitions are dropped and stories about their lives get shared. Readers might find parallels in the recent book by Chitra Banerje Divakaruni, One Amazing Thing, where earthquake survivors trapped in a collapsed building, tell each other the one amazing thing in their lives which had changed things around for them. Or of Rana Dasgupta's Tokyo Cancelled, where a wait at an airport terminal becomes a fantastical voyage of magic realism. Or even still, the epic Chaucerian Canterbury Tales, written way back in the 14th Century, where a pilgrimage to Canterbury by an assorted lot of people of the age, leads them all to narrate their individual stories as a way to pass the time. But where Dange's narrative differs is at the end, where all her story tellers find their individual resolutions.

As the strangers thrown together come out with their stories, we learn of love that was forbidden because the lovers were considered old, and therefore didn’t have the right to fall in love, of a child who is forced to overcompensate for the delinquency of his older brother and be the good boy, of a nurse, stifled and suffocated by the routine of caring for the patients under her charge, the voice over artist with a failed marriage behind her, and an attempt at a relationship with an NRI abandoned, a professor who sees with dismay her son getting into popular Bollywood and falling prey to the various isms that govern the film industry and its superstitions.

The novel is crafted in the per chapter one person’s story tradition, with the rest of the motley crew putting in their opinions and perspectives on the story, and the end of the book tying together all the unfinished stories, in the form of emails sent out to the group. Stories are resolved, peace is made with situations, life goes on. The counsel offered to the each other at the end of each chapter has been acted on, strangers have helped put each other’s lives in perspective in a way that one’s immediate friends and family would never have been able to.

This book is the kind of heartwarming book that brings a glow to one’s day with the thought that no matter what the trials and tribulations you face, you are not alone, everyone has their own demons to battle.

Rs 250/-
Available off the website

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review :Man of Glass

The two biggest mistakes you could do with this slim book of poems is to, first read Tabish Khair’s short bio on the first page. The second would be to read Ranjit Hoskote’s testimony on the book.

In his bio is revealed the challenging information that Tabish is the author of a book called “The Gothic, Post colonialism and Otherness: Ghosts from Elsewhere”.

 And then Ranjit Hoskote, the writer and critic, says this: “Khair dwells on the persistences of historical memory…on events that course through the bloodstream or spark along the nervous system, to explode in the brain.

But, hark, it would be unfair, and a loss, to not read this book on the basis of its uber-intellectual moorings and attestations. For here is a collection from an extremely talented poet, which engages well (though not always), as it covers ground between contemporary political concerns and the more personal plane of love and loss.

In the first section “Water”, Tabish rewrites the mythological Shakuntala’s story as a modern girl’s journey into the Western World in times of strife and stress.

It does take a while to get used to Tabish’s style: it’s often like prose chopped into little pieces and sometimes sliced oblong like beans; and the imagery is frequently abstruse.

The poetry delves into the life-journeys of the sensitive protagonist: here a chance meeting with someone she can speak freely in English (“How much she savours this stolen moment,/ Like a surreptitious kiss, this equal walk,/ Equal talk, this promise of the palace/ Of possibilities.”), there a poignant reference to the hopelessness of sacrifice (“Here on the stone-lab of Time are the crushed roots/ Of sacrifice that is ever repeated and never bears fruit.”).

Tabish uses nature to conjure disaster and is coruscating with his descriptions (“The wind peels off the dried crust of last night’s wound” and “the clear shout of sunlight”). He is often sly in his humour (“You guessed the day your dupatta slipped and you heard the crash/ Of something breaking that was always too big to mention.”) And he takes little detours of descriptions, whilst telling his stories, like whispered asides.
Where a reader gets lost is in the poet’s habit of intellectualizing situations - and then poetry becomes artifice.

The second section, “Stone”, a translated creation of some of Ghalib’s ghazals, is the weakest section. The delicacy of Urdu has always stood uneasily when translated into any other language. The metaphors sound stilted, the similes strained. And “Dil-e-nadaan tujhe hua kya hai” sounds alien as “O heedless heart, why do you despond?” And my sense of humour was severely stretched to see “Har buney-mu se dam e zikr na tapkey khunnaab/ Hamza ka kissa hua ishq ka charcha na hua” transferred into “If blood doesn’t drip from every line of love-verse,/ It’s only fit to go on sale with Dan Browns!”

But (triumph!) all the cerebral acrobatics and revisionist translations give way to a calm but anguished voice in the third section “Glass”. The rhythms become less complex, the similes simpler. From intellectualism to artifice to feelings – Tabish’s poetry becomes so quiet that one can almost hear his tears falling. He takes cues from the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and brings contemporary stories of love, longing and loss infused with startling poignancy.

In ‘Prayer’ (take-off on ‘Thumbelina’) he writes: “Grant me a little child / I can hide/ When the mullahs come home to pray, / When planes are birds of prey. / Someone / Smaller than my thumb/ I can put in my pocket and run.” He writes about racial prejudices, corruption, the insidious influence of wealth, the brittleness of love, et al.

From one heart-rending poem to another, he brings out poetry’s power of imagery, and life’s ironies, paradoxes and tragedies. And then the final poem, “Perspectives on a Grain of Sand”, a heart-felt gem, unravels, enveloping within its warm arms, the realization of how what’s precious has to be treasured at all cost.

Just the way you would like to treasure some of these final priceless nuggets at any cost.

This book is reviewed by Sunil Bhandari. Sunil is a finance man in a corporate job, who converts balance sheets into pieces of poetic fancies! Sunil loves films, writes to live, lives to write...He blogs at

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dial-a-Book Recommends

Dial-a-Book recommendation for this week is

The book of the week 39 is ‘Ziglar on Selling’ by Zig Ziglar

From prospecting to closing sales, from cold calling to direct selling this book touches on all aspects of selling. This book is both a good read and good have for your library.

Book Blurb:

  A successful sales professional clearly understands that education and preparation for the task is never finished. It is a lifetime experience, and in Ziglar on Selling, best-selling author Zig Ziglar offers an integral part of the ongoing education. Filled with practical tips and motivation, this book will help sales professionals keep their clients happy, add to their income, and most importantly, add to their quality of life.

About The Author: Zig Ziglar is an American author,motivational speaker and a super salesman.

Price: Rs 250 (Indian Edition)

Pages: 368

Amazon Link:

Quotes by Ziglar:
·  You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.
·  People don't buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.
·  People often complain about lack of time when lack of direction is the real problem.

To own/gift this book, give us a call on 9650-457-457 or simply reply to this email

To check previous weeks book click here


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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gouri Dange : So who's launching your book?

“If you want the media to show up, you must have a celebrity inaugurate it.” Seasoned boutique and jewellery store owners have always known this. 

Someone innocent once asked, “Why? Do the media buy a lot of clothes and jewellery?”

“No, dummy, the media come marching like a row of ants to a lump of sugar when the celebrity shows up, then buyers come to gawk at who the media is gawking at, and this is how people come to your store,” the seasoned merchant explains.

And the same thing applies to selling books too, now. Books, baubles, blouses...same difference. Beautiful people have to launch them, more beautiful people have to write about them, and only then is a book officially born. Writers may kid themselves, like I once did (albeit briefly), and say “Hello,I am the celebrity at my own launch, aren’t I?”  But that attitude just won’t get the three-ringed circus going. So get with the program, you writers, musicians and artists who think your job’s done once the creation is done.

Where and how does one find a willing celebrity? Well some people went to school with someone who then became a big noise. That helps, if the big noise has remained your friend. Some people tackle it from the other end of the tunnel. They first identify a celebrity and become his groupie. Then they go home and write (it’s usually poetry) for the soul/sole purpose of having the celeb launch their book. Once that evening is done and friends have been bludgeoned on FB with pictures of the event, the poetasters swoon in satisfaction and (unfortunately) begin to think of their next outpouring for yet another diva or dude to launch. 

Then there are writers who refuse to be drawn into the melee. Meera Godbole Krishnamurthy (debut novel Balancing Act) called two respected but not Page 3 people, “who are both celebrities in my eyes” as she puts it. Meera says, “When I wrote the book, I never expected that I would have to "sell" the book too. In the currently celebrity-obsessed India, you can't sell anything without a famous - and in Mumbai that usually means Bollywood - face. I was shocked by the book launches that were happening all over the country where the celebrity - and not the author - was the focus of the evening. I was lucky enough to find two wonderful women for my book launch who valued the book and graciously made the event about the book and not about themselves.”

I too have three such people. They’re friend-celebs who also like my writing (or are kind enough to say it), and so the whole thing is not stressful and fake. This time round, for my second novel The Counsel of Strangers, I thought I would get 6 friends to read little excerpts (there are 6 characters in the book) at my launches in this city and that. I may still do it, but I’ll have to hedge my bets by throwing in some celeb power too, the bookstores tell me firmly. It’s like that, this whole launch business.

Manu Joseph, who recently launched Serious Men, says he didn’t have any celeb at his launch because he didn’t know any. If he knew Kareena he would have called her, he clarified! (Come on, Manu - you're a big draw yourself, I am told.)

Vikram Sampath (recently launched, already in reprint My Name is Gauhar Jaan) planned a multi-city tour. He was very clear that he needed celebrities to be there. His process of sifting through names, contacting them, hearing a no, or being asked for fantasmagoric ‘appearance fees’, detailed instructions on how they would need to be received with pomp and splendour – everything short of 21-gun salutes  – when they arrived at the launch venue, and other such demands, would make a riotously funny story in itself. But sometimes Vikram struck gold, and found veteran musicians or seriously senior government people, who were secure, generous human beings, who arrived without a fuss, spoke eloquently about the book or read beautifully from it.

That’s the other thing. I call people to read, sure, for the attention it gets, but also so that it’s not me yammering on about the book at my own launches. Already you’ve been writing the book in your head, then crafting-drafting on your comp or on paper, then reading sometimes it’s nice to hear it being read out in another (far better) voice!

This whole business is not easy on some celebrities either – especially the ones who are on high rotation at book launches because they have that perfect combo of being from the entertainment industry but seen as ‘thoda intellectual-sa’ as they say in Bollywood. I know a few who groan to their seccys: “Please, not one more book launch.” But there are many others who would love to acquire that ‘intellectual-sa’ wash, and I’m thinking, as I write, that perhaps someone needs to start a kind of agency that matches celeb with book. Imagine the call (translate into Hindi in your mind) from middleman to the celeb: “Madamji, there’s a book launch to be done, it’s perfect for you, something on Partition-wartition...Your connection with history and tragedy can be shown if you launch this book. No, no, don’t worry, you don’t have to read the book. Writer will write down your lines for you.”
Then he will call the anxious writer: “Got it, got it sir, ekdum perfect personality. Tragedy-expressions are very good of this lady. Date is not free, so you can change your launch date, but guaranteed newspaper and TV channels will come.”

And you thought books were about readers.

Gouri Dange

(The writer is a columnist and novelist. Her second novel The Counsel of Strangers is on a 6-city tour with or without celebrities.)
This piece first appeared in the Times of India, Mumbai, 25 July 2010

 Read a Q&A with Gouri here !

101 Children's Book We Love

Dear Fellow Booklovers,   

We are in the process of putting together a guide to the best Indian children’s books…. and we would like to hear from you!
101 Indian Children’s Books We Love seeks suggestions and contributions from children, parents, teachers, grandparents, librarians, resource people and book lovers. If there’s an Indian book that you think is a must-read, this is your chance to tell everyone about it. You can chose up to three titles.

Your entry must include:

Name of book

Author’s name

Illustrator’s name

Publisher’s name and date of publication

A short review of 100-150 words (you can be as enthusiastic as you want!!)

Your name & email ID

If you’re at school, the name of your school and your class

* The best reviews will be printed in the book.

All books must be available (in print) in English in India. Translations from other languages into English as well as bi-lingual books can be included. Please note that the books must be published in India - and not imported
The guide will cover books for a wide age range – from baby’s first picture books to young adult fiction – and will include non-fiction and poetry as well as fiction titles. There will be a section for special format books, including Braille, audio books and touch-and-feel. We will not include textbooks. So, pick your favourite book/s and send in your entries to: 
The deadline for receiving entries is August 1, 2010.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: The Obscure Logic of the Heart

The Obscure Logic of the Heart’ is truly one of the most fine and splendid book that I have read in recent times. The book is so wonderfully written and every character in the book well defined. The story though a bit slow paced  manages to keep you engaged till the very end. By the time the book ends you feel sad that the book is over!

The Obscure Logic of the Heart’ interleaves two narratives one which is the modern day story of Anil and Lina while the other is a story of an unfulfilled romance between a British woman and a man who she loved but who left her because they belonged to different faiths. The story that runs parallel to the Anil and Lina’s story, though years back, is still so relevant to the choices they make today. Both the stories beautifully and effortlessly merge at the end of the book almost leaving the reader breathless!

The plot is ordinary but Basil’s writing makes the book and the story absolutely extraordinary. This book is a story of love between Lina Merali, who is a Muslim and Anil Mayur a Hindu. Lina comes from a modest background and her parents are devout Muslims living in Birmingham while Anil comes from a very affluent family based in Kenya. Their worlds are far apart from each other but their love is so strong that they believe that they will be able to surpass all troubles that come their way. Lina knowing the opposition that she will face if her parents come to know of her blossoming relationship with Anil, engages in an intricate game of deceit with her parents. While her parents are unaware of the relationship Anil’s parents are supportive. But her parents soon discover her web of lies and they threaten to break off all ties with her if she continues her relationship with Anil. She promises them that she will end the relationship and she would marry a person of their choice. Lina soon moves to New York on an assignment with the UN and despite her pledge to her parents she continues her relationship with Anil. When Anil moves back to Kenya she takes up a posting in Sudan to be closer to Anil. While there, she discovers a few aspects of Anil’s family that make her uncomfortable about the fate of the relationship.

Lina tries her best to maintain a balance between her love for her family and her relationship with Anil. She is afraid that her decision to continue her relationship with Anil could have severe repercussions. Lina’s indecisiveness, her feeling of being a misfit in Anil’s family, her apprehensions is beautifully narrated by the writer. At times you feel sorry for Lina and at times you can’t help but get annoyed with her decisions. On the other hand, you have Anil who is totally supportive of Lina’s choices; he is willing to go to any lengths to keep Lina happy. Anil though he has a few shortcomings, is almost a near perfect partner to have.

What stands apart in the book is when Lina meets her father to request him to accept her relationship with Anil and her father Shareef shares with her a secret he has never shared with anyone. The other poignant moments are when Shareef expresses his inability to accept his daughter’s relationship with a non-Muslim and how it goes against his faith and all that he has believed in. Basil manages to portray such a touching father daughter relationship that almost moves you to tears.

The two main characters of the story you can absolutely identify with. There are many times when you will pause during the book and compare the situation with your own experiences. You come across many people in your life but then there are some you instantly connect with. You just know that those are the people who are capable of changing the course of your life. Some stay with you and some move on but not before leaving an impression in your life forever.

The book is beautiful and rich in prose, bold and deeply moving. The story is brilliantly narrated. It has characters that you will remember for days to come. A highly recommended book which you must pick up today, if you haven’t already! This book has to be at the top of your to read list!

About the author:

Priya Basil was born in London and grew up in Kenya. Her first novel, Ishq and Mushq, was longlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, The Dylan Thomas Prize for Young Writers and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Priya lives in London and Berlin

ISBN: 13 9780385611459

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review :The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle :Haruki Murakami

To say that The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an epic novel wouldn’t be an overstatement. Stories within story, plots within plot, heady concoction of surrealism and dreams, stretching over a time period that encompasses World War II and Japan’s military exploits, and deep exploration of the dark recesses of the human psyche –all these elements combine to make it a fascinating and intoxicating read. Haruki Murakami – Japan’s most famous novelist – packs so much in one book that it looks formidably like a tome but don’t get daunted by its thickness. It’s such an easy read – translated into English from the original Japanese – that you don’t feel at all the intrusion of language in the story that unfolds but at the same time it’s deep and reflective and this is where you need to be careful – the simplicity of the language can be deceptive. Murakami spins his yarn and carves an intricate plot that’s guaranteed to submerge you in it.

It is the story of a young man named Toru who is bored with his mundane life and struggling to save a disintegrating marriage until their cat goes missing. He gets an anonymous phone call and there the story leaps off. Toru finds out that his seemingly mundane life is veiled in the opacity of secretiveness and things are not what they seem to be. His life spins out of control and he feels as if a seemingly implacable power is at the helm of his life. The missing cat triggers a chain of events and soon his wife Kumiko goes missing too for unexplained reasons. He embarks on an epic journey to bring back his wife and more so to return the normalcy and sanity to his life shattered by the whirlwind of bizarre events. Like a river meandering along hills and valleys, unaware and uncertain of the obstacles which may come in its way and obstruct its flow but fully certain of its goal - which it has to reach - Toru’s life hobbles forwards from one journey to the other in a maze of mysteries and bizarreness, in search of his wife Kumiko. In the course, he not only learns more about Kumiko and the people around him, meet an aging war veteran permanently scarred by the hideous things he witnessed during military exploits of Japan, a shady politician who is the embodiment of evil, a psychic woman whose life is equally bizarre and complicated and whose father bears an uncanny resemblance to Toru but also about himself, the unexplored attic of his mind and the deep, dark secrets hidden beneath the veneer of ordinariness.

The novel is on the darker side and explores evil and good, human psyche, fatalism and Japan’s obsession with psychic powers and western culture. Murakami’s knack of exploring the ominous and menacing signs in the innocuous, mundane events in life is dizzying. Tension grips, plots give way and secrets are laid bare as the story lurches towards the climax which is a bit disappointing and also depressing because Murakami poses more questions than he answers, creates more puzzles than he solves and builds more mysteries than he reveals but then this is Murakami’s forte. This is the kind of novel Murakami writes where the reader cannot remain impassive and detached. He compels the reader to do introspection and reflect over their own life and seek the answers. The novel is contemplative, historical and deeply reflective. If you love dark novels with huge dollops of reality, if you want to explore yourself and go on soul-searching then this is the book for you. Go for it.

(This book is reviewed by Ajay Kumar. Ajay, is pursuing engineering and is in the fourth year at IIT, Kharagpur .He blogs at

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dial-a-Book Recommends

It has been our constant endeavor to keep the readers of our blog updated on the latest books, upcoming titles, interesting authors and book events. Taking this a step further we will have Dial-a-Book’s weekly book recommendation that they send out to all their subscribers. They have been kind enough, to let us share their weekly recommended book, with our blog readers as well.

About Dial-a-Book
Dial-a-Book is a service that lets you order all types of books and services over phone. We also offer book recommendations for buying and gifting books.

To order books call 9650-457-457 or send an email to

The best part is that they deliver books anywhere in India with no additional delivery cost!

Dial-a-Book recommendation for this week is

The book of the week 38 is ‘The Art of Choosing’ by Sheena Iyengar

Book Blurb:  
An Apple Store customer asks for the latest iPhone in black but suddenly changes his preference to white when he sees the choices others are making. A resident of a former communist country is offered a fizzy drink from a wide selection but picks at random; soda is soda, he says. Though the child knows she shouldn't press the big red button (absolutely not!), she finds her hand inching forward. A young man and woman decide to marry -- knowing that the first time they meet will be on their wedding day.

How did these people make their choices? How do any of us make ours? Choice is a powerful tool to define ourselves and mold our lives -- but what do we know about the wants, motivations, biases, and influences that aid or hinder our endeavors?

In The Art of Choosing, Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar, a leading expert on choice, sets herself the Herculean task of helping us become better choosers. She asks fascinating questions: Is the desire for choice innate or created by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Ultimately, she offers unexpected and profound answers, drawn from her award-winning, discipline-spanning research.

Here you'll learn about the complex relationship between choice and freedom, and why one doesn't always go with the other. You'll see that too much choice can overwhelm us, leading to unpleasant experiences, from "TiVo guilt" over unwatched TV programs to confusion over health insurance plans. Perhaps most important, you'll discover how our choices -- both mundane and momentous -- are shaped by many different forces, visible and invisible. This remarkable book illuminates the joys and challenges of choosing, showing us how we build our lives, one choice at a time.

About The Author: Sheena Iyengar's innovative research on choice has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Security Education Program. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton School of Business, and Stanford University. She is a professor at Columbia University and a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award. Her work is regularly cited in such periodicals as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and TIME magazines, and in books such as Blink and The Paradox of Choice. She lives in New York City with her family

Print Price: Rs 499, Our Price: Rs 399 (20% discount)

Here's the summary of Sheena's recent TED talk

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Wild Child and Other Stories by TC Boyle

Reviewed by Kiran Manral

This fabulous collection of short stories from author T C Boyle is a study on how the perfect short story needs to be crafted. The stories move from California to South America to France, from the here and now, to Napoleanic France and all connect themselves to each other with the primary element of nature being the principal over riding character across all the stories.

In the story, The Unlucky Mother of Aquiles Maldonaldo, we see how a mother can convert even a band of hardened guerrillas who kidnap her in the hope of a ransom from her Venezualan pitcher son by her taking care of them. His much valued pitching arm comes in handy at the end to lob a grenade in order to rescue her from the bandits. In the end, the mother and son realise that ostentatious display of well

The characters in Boyle’s short stories are everyday people, who are just that little bit strange. We see how a tiny lie, in the short story, The Lie, told by a film editor who just cant bear to get into work changes his entire life. Like the film editor, we see a man who conveniently temporarily discards the values and beliefs he holds good just to get close to the person he lusts after in ‘Bulletproof’. The animal instinct of man to survive against all odds is a recurring motif. In “La Conchita, we have a courier man transporting a liver from a donor to a recipient for a transplant, stuck in a mudslide on the Pacific Coast Highway and concentrate on digging out the victims of the slide rather than seek ways to get around the mudslide and deliver the organ to the critical recipient in hospital. His Glock-9 does not come handy in the face of nature’s fury and he is compelled to accept his competitor coming in to transport the liver to its destination. Finally, the story of the title, Wild Child, is the true tale of a jungle child, eventually named Victor, found in Napoleanic France who was brought into civilization and slowly taught how to be part of society. The narrative is a fascinating account of how he might have been taught the culture and mores of the time, and how his instinctive animal side was eventually subdued to so-called normality.The stories are kaleidoscopic, incisive, empathic and occasionally twisted just enough to keep you hooked. Not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination. But a compelling one.

Crossword Pune launch of The Counsel of Strangers

On 24 july, Saturday, 6 30 pm to 8 pm at the Senapati Bapat Rd Crossword.

Gouri Dange's latest novel, The Counsel of Strangers will be launched by Tanvi Azmi and Mohan Agashe who will be reading excerpts.
Tthe book is available off the site for those of you who are net-inclined, and off amazon and authorhouse for those outside India.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review : Delhi Calm


Vishwajyoti Ghosh's first solo graphic novel Delhi Calm is a book which takes you through a time of uncertainty and turmoil that existed in India during Emergency.It is a story of the grit of the people who fought for their right to democracy despite all odds during these troubled times. If post independence history interests you, this is one book which you must read.I would say this is a book which should be read by those who lived through the Emergency and all those who have only heard about it.

The Emergency imposed in India in 1975 by the then PM Indira Gandhi (Mrs.Moon in the book) regime would definitely be considered one of the darkest episodes in the history of India post Independence. Imagine a life where you wake up to learn that all your rights as a citizen have been suspended, you are told how to talk, when to laugh, how to live, what to speak, when to speak. Such were the restrictions that existed during the Emergency and this was just the beginning to an 18 month ordeal. Across India, people were picked up and put into jails, which included leaders and legislators of parties other than the ruling party. Anyone considered a threat to the ruling party was immediately arrested. Amongst those taken under house arrest was JP Narayan (The Prophet). Narayan was a figure of great moral authority, a hero of the freedom struggle and a highly respected person who started the 'Total Revolution' movement, a movement started to rid the country of misgovernance, corruption, inflation and class disparity. JP’s movement found a lot of support in the youth who were fed up with the state of affairs. The winds of change were blowing; the country was uniting in its stand to oust the corrupt government, fearing this dissent, the PM arbitrarily decided to impose Emergency.

Parvez Alam, in the book is one such youth who has been trying his luck to get suitable employment, but has been unable to get one. He turns to Vivek Kumar (Master) for help. Master asks Parvez to join Shine Tuition Centre to teach English during the week, and in the weekend tour with his team members of the Naya Savera Band into the villages to garner support for the 'The Prophet' and his cause through music and songs. The pragmatic Parvez meets Vibhuti Prasad, a poet and an idealist who is also a part of the band and they strike an uneasy friendship. But soon differences crop up and things start going awry resulting in the three drifting apart. VP soon after moves to Powerpolis (Delhi) and starts working for a newspaper but suddenly one day finds himself jobless, thanks to the media gag ordered by the government once the Emergency is declared. That is when VP meets Parvez and Master, they regroup again to fight for a common cause –the State. Will they escape the ever watchful eyes of the government? Will they realize their dream of an egalitarian, socialist democracy?

This book, part graphic,part text is set in Delhi successfully manages to chronicle the life and times of people during the Emergency. The book has some fabulous artwork and what is amazing is the detailed look and feel of the seventies. The illustrations beautifully convey the state of total government dominance with the unforgettable slogans coined during the period such as ‘Talk Less, Work More’ ‘Keep Distance, Keep Quiet’ ‘The Nation is in Deep crisis ’ cleverly merged in the background of every frame.

The book manages to capture the interest of the reader right from the start and keeps the reader engaged till the very end. The book is absolutely unputdownable.

A bit about the author:

Vishwajyoti Ghosh 's comics are regularly published in various journals and anthologies, both in India and abroad.His recently published work includes contributions in two international anthologies, When Kulbhushan Met Stockli and Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption, and Times New Roman and Countrymen. Delhi Calm is his first solo graphic novel.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Reviews from Itchingtowriteblogs

If history fascinates you, read Itchingtowrite's review of the second book from the Alex Rutherford series here.

And here is what she wrote about Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's One Amazing Thing.

If you have reviewed any books on your blog and wish to share the link with us, do write in to us at

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pearls of Wisdom

Pearls of Wisdom
A Hilarious Hauntings Adventure
By Sonja Chandrachud

Reviewed by Shivani Singh

‘Chalo Chowpatty for some solid Bombay bhel.’

These are the kind of wacky lines you’ll find in this book. So if you want to go on a ride that can beat the spice of Bombay bhel, this is the book for you.

Pearls of Wisdom is a hilarious account of the adventure that breaks loose in the Water World and the Sorcery World created by the author Sonja Chandrachud. The book’s plot and style has the essence of Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series blended to create a captivating and humorous desi fantasy.

In this sequel to the book ‘Potion of Eternity’, the possessor of the Pearls of Wisdom gets the power to rule the capital of the sea world – Poseidon, and all its residing creatures. And that’s what the villains; the dark creatures called ‘The Black Magi’ are intent on stealing to get ultimate power over the Sorcery World. But the Black Magi aren’t the only ones with their eyes set on these powerful pearls. The Serpent King Va Suki, who has a thousand heads, believes that the pearls rightfully belong to the Nagas, and hence he too is another enemy vying for the pearls.

The book centres around the Von D’eth family. When the Pearls of Wisdom are stolen from Drunkula Von D’eth - a vampire who was given the duty to protect them, all hell breaks loose. He is accused of treason, and is set to be executed on the nearest Full Moon. In the meanwhile, the Black Magi have taken the pearls to Va Suki in return for his treasures in the Sea of Secrets. The Sea of Secrets is the most dangerous part of the sea filled with marine creatures intent on biting your head off. When the question arises as to who should be the one to go and retrieve the pearls from the terrifying place where not many make it out alive, it is revealed that Koral (a 13 year old bright and brave water wizard) is destined to go down there, but at a terrible price.

But as if Koral hasn’t got her platter full with the Black Magi in the possession of the pearls and Va Suki on their trail, there enters another potential contender who wants to be crowned with the glory of the coveted pearls. And this is not just any other dark creature or enemy – it’s someone who has betrayed the Von D’eths. Someone who is nearly invincible.

Sonja Chandrachud is exceptionally creative in spinning fantasy, something that is seen in the ranks of J.K. Rowling. Her way with words gives you a delightfully vivid image of what she’s describing, and her language flows freely. I would recommend it to children of the age 10 +, and anyone in search of a thrilling plot.

The climax with which the book ends will leave you wanting more. It’s not a typical happy ending, and it leaves you pondering about where the story can go next. Because Koral had to pay a terrible price, something that will never leave her whole again. And that’s up to you readers to find out!

(Shivani Singh, a student of St Mary's Pune, is an avid reader and a writer in the making.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review : The Chosen One

The first thing you notice about Sam Bourne's new book is the statement by Mirror which states he is 'The biggest challenger to Dan Brown's crown'.Sam Bourne, is a pseudonym of Jonathan Freedland,an award winning journalist and broadcaster.He is popularly hailed as Britain's Dan Brown after his first book 'The Righteous Men'.Well is he the answer to Dan Brown?...Well I'll leave that ,to you dear reader, to decide!

The protagonist of the book is Maggie Costello who we first met in Bourne's book 'The Last Testament' as a peace negotiator in the Middle East who is helped in her mission by Uri, her Israeli boyfriend.After failing to bring peace to the region (only if it were that easy to achieve!) and feeling disillusioned ,she is now back in America as a political advisor to President Stephen Baker.She sees him,like the rest of America, as the man to lead the world to a safer and better future.

But soon things start going awry for President Baker as an enemy Vic Forbes surfaces and starts revealing unknown secrets of the President starting with one secret and shortly followed by another.Vic threatens a third revelation which will destroy Baker entirely.But before the third secret is revealed Vic Forbes is found dead.Maggie is called on by the President to help bail him out.What follows is Maggie's (almost) single handed journey to get to the truth.Will the truth end up revealing the real Stephen Baker.Will the new President be able to complete his term in the White House?

The book is, at times, a bit far fetched especially Maggie's almost heroic portrayal,a school friendship gone sour that leads to a revenge so epic and the most far fetched is the group of worldwide bankers who identify potential world leaders (while they are still in school!!) and then go all out to support and help them in becoming one!Of course all this achieved without the person's knowledge!So Baker ends up being one such 'identified' talent.

What is the truth,who is Vic Forbes, why was he murdered and what was the secret that he was about to reveal before he got killed makes this book an exciting page turner.

Inspite of the drawbacks the book manages to keep you hooked till the very last page.If thrillers,political conspiracies interest you then do go ahead and pick up this book!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Review: How to Salsa in a Sari

It's interesting to see how the Indian publishers are finally waking up to this vastly untapped Young Adult genre in India.Mint Lounge had an interesting article on this recently which mentioned various publishers who are coming out with YA books .The link to the article is here.So now the YA genre has some more interesting options to read besides the hugely popular Twilight series!

Yet one more YA book that I have read is Dona Sarkar's 'How to Salsa in a Sari' .Unusual title and a fun book. I would recommend it to all adolescents out there to go buy a copy!

'Salsa in a Sari' is the story of Issa Mazumdar.Issa is a nerdy half-African and half-Indian teenage girl living in America with her Indian mother ever since her father walked out on them.Issa is horrified when she hears that her mother is planning to remarry what is worse is that her mother plans to marry her arch enemy in school,Cat Morena's dad.Cat is the uber cool , popular,super rich girl in school who absolutely loathes Issa and has also stolen Issa's boyfriend Adam just to spite her....almost Veronica and Betty but with a twist!

So when Issa hears that she and her mother would be moving into Cat's huge mansion she becomes absolutely determined to make it miserable for Cat by paying her back in the same way.Issa is also hoping that her mother ends the relationship and gets back with her dad Roy.To achieve her mission she pulls out all stops by getting a makeover, flirting and befriending the hunk Cat has her eyes on,lying to her would-be step dad Diego about Cat and winning the most coveted Snow Queen crown! What she ends up doing is alienating herself from her best friends and her mother while at the same time also ends up losing out on her school grades.By the end, though things have gone exactly as planned with Cat, she is not too happy as she feels that she has ended up losing more than what she has gained!

The book is sassy,bitchy and naughty!It manages to capture the turmoil that Issa goes through from her transformation as a nerdy to a naughty teenager.It shows Issa going through love,heartbreak,hatred,jealousy, indecisiveness ...all so familiar emotions!It's a simple and honest story which all of us can relate with to our own growing up years.

So does Issa manage to break off her mum's relationship with Diego,do Issa and Cat end up becoming friends and why this unusual title?Read the book to find out!

Interesting and fun read.

Review : Body Talk

'Real Girls Ask Real Questions about Love,Life and everything in between' this pretty much sums up the book 'Body Talk' by Anjali Wason.The book, is the coming of age of Indian Young Adult Literature and works like a girl’s handy book. Whatever questions you may have from sex,bodies,relationships this book attempts to cover it all.

Extensively researched for three years this book features over 400 questions thats girls across India have asked and wanted answers to.In her note to the reader Anjali Wason says 'Over 400 women between the ages of 17 and 25 from across Delhi,Kolkata and Mumbai wanted to participate and talk about their hopes,dreams and anxieties.Together,they painted an enlightening picture of what it means to be a young middle-class woman in today's urban India-A world of gargantuan change'.

The book starts off with very basic questions like Acne (a pain for every teenage girl!) and eating disorders and moves on to periods,orgasm,masturbation,relationships,sex,sexual orientation,STDs,protection,sexual harassment...Yes this book is one comprehensive guide for every girl out there with questions in mind but finds it difficult to ask.The book also has some stories,quizzes and advice from doctors.The most important ,helpful and useful chapter I felt was the resource guide.

This book would probably be the first one of its kind and honest attempt to try and answer all questions that a growing up girl would want answered .A useful self help book many mothers would be grateful for.

The book works excellently as a guide and a friend to all the girls out there from 14 to 30 years!A must have book for every girl.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Book related events in July

Check them out here!

A flash fiction contest

This mail from Aniket Thakkar:

My dear friend and mentor in many ways - Sarah Hina, has now turned a published author.

My author friends and I are doing everything (Interviews, reviews, contests, etc) to create a buzz about her book - Plum Blossoms In Paris.

As my contribution for the same, I have organised a Flash Fiction writing contest at my site:

Sarah will be picking two winners who would each get a copy of her book - Plum Blossoms In Paris.

Contest deadline is 20th of July.