Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: The Immortals of Meluha

At about the one-fourth mark of the novel “The Immortals of Meluha” by Amish, there is a scene of an ambush: the evil Nagas attack the travelling party, which consists of Shiva, the Tibetan hero; Sati, the princess (who Shiva loves, though without reciprocation) and their protective guards. Typical of the book, the suspense of the attack is in its unadorned language, its heroine fighting alongside the hero, and the decisive defeat emanating out of the quick thinking of the hero.

In a book which mixes mythology, history and fiction with unassuming adroitness, it’s easy to be held totally captivated as the narrative hurtles from one action scene to another, one lovelorn scene to another.

Its 1900 BC and a tribe called Gunas, living at the foothills of Mount Kailash in Tibet are called away to Meluha, with the promise of an unparalled life of serenity and luxury. What they don’t know is that the Meluhans are on the lookout for a NeelKanth (the blue-throated) to lead them to victory in a battle for survival. And that Neelkantha turns out to be - Shiva himself.

Shiva is incredulous and unbelieving of the legend, as he cannot see himself as a hero, a Mahadev, who can destroy all evil and become the leader of a huge prosperous nation and its fine inhabitants, he himself being nothing more than a tribal leader.
But this is where the first of the primary themes of the book comes into play: heroes are often born out of the sheer belief of others. And even though there could be things which are preordained, you still have to find victory the hard way. It’s a compelling thought, and ensures that victory is not always inevitable in the book.

Shiva has to fend terrorist attacks, he has to battle prejudice, he has to fight deep-rooted tradition and finally he has to lead his new-found nation into a full-on battle. And that is when, in a stunning closure, comes the second theme of the book: the heart of evil often isn’t. Shiva understands the pyrrhic nature of victory, and realizes that his enemies are elsewhere.

The book is so simply written that it is almost a guilty pleasure to read it. There is not a single line which you could call quotable. The dialogue is often stilted and the descriptions artificial. But the narrative is fast-paced, the story tightly-woven and the action scenes well-written. And though the inner worlds of the characters are not explored with any great insight, they come across as well-rounded individuals with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. And the romance is well-crafted to its conclusion, with the heroine being an apt equal, and not a simpering piece of wallpaper.

I have no idea of the verisimilitude of the backgrounds or of the positioning of the historical characters, but they all add up to some fine heavy-duty and heavy-breathing scenes. A book whose sequel I would like to lay hands on pretty quickly.

Read our interview with the author here .

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 http://2-minute-film-review.blogspot.com.




Sunday, August 29, 2010

Review : TATA: The Evolution of a Corporate Brand




Tata: The Evolution of a Corporate Brand talks about the brand Tata and what it has come to mean not just in India but all across the world. The brand Tata in India has been a source of immense pride for Indians; it is a part of our everyday life.  It stands for its honesty, integrity, sincerity and commitment to the people of the nation.  The company has been steadfast in its determination and belief that India and Indian companies have it in them to take on the world. Tatas are not just driven by commerce or in the business of making money the company while reaching dizzying heights of success has also been strongly rooted to the ground with its strong social conscience.  Of course it would be unfair to just talk about the Tata Group in the Indian context after it acquired two high profile companies such as Land Rover and Corus Steel. With these acquisitions the group has proved to the world that it is a brand to reckon with. Indian at heart but Global in mind is what drives the brand Tata.

The book gives the reader an amazing insight into this truly loved and admired brand. Starting with what are the values that the brand stands for right from its employees, to its shareholders and to all its customers. It gives us a glimpse into the dreams that its founder Shri Jamshetji Tata had for the company and the nation to how Mr.JRD Tata took that dream forward following it with Mr.Ratan Tata who drove the company to establish and consolidate the brand globally.

The book is the Group’s interesting journey from 1887 (when Tata & Sons was established) to date written in a simple, easy to read manner. A fascinating read for one and all. So whether you are an entrepreneur, a manager, a marketer or an interested loyalist this book will help you understand the durability of the brand. The brand manages to inspire the reader with its strong values and beliefs it holds in the global economy.

What the brand means to India and Indians is captured by the author in the book brilliantly with this statement “Indians just do not know that the Tata Group is committed to nation building, they expect it to be so...”

A good and well researched book.

About the Author:

Morgan Witzel is an honorary senior fellow at the University of Exeter Business School and a Senior Consultant Winthrop Group of business historians. He is the author of fifteen books on business management, including Management History and the best-selling Doing Business in China as well  as Be Your Own Management Guru published in 2010 by Penguin Portfolio.




Saturday, August 28, 2010

Review:Chicken Soup for the Soul:Indian Women


Chicken soup for the soul: Indian Women deals with heart warming stories that women encounter in their everyday life which is very inspirational.

As a reader one looks for such inspirations as a solution in one’s own stressful life. I especially like the stories in the section ‘A life of Purpose’ where it begins with a quote from Maya Angelou “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” The story of Anjali – where  an Indian American engineer by profession gives up her high powered job only to join an NGO working for the eradication of bad addiction and where she travels to villages and tries her  best to convince them to give up their addiction is very impressive and makes you want to follow the same.

Fire engine courage , The woman in the mirror, Love eternal, Spelling Success too  are some very life teaching stories and which I really liked a lot. These are stories which bring a tear to your eyes as well as makes you want to wake up to the real world and contribute in one’s own way  to make life a little better place to be in.

Chicken soup for the soul: Indian Women is a book not only to read for inspiration but it can be enjoyed as a leisure reading book too. It touches your heart anyway from all those moving stories by women either at their home or workplace. 

However, I must add that at some point you tend to get a little jaded and lose interest in the book, but do not give up on a few arid stories as the next maybe the one which will recharge you and definitely inspire you …..go ahead and get your copy.

(This book is reviewed by Veronica Puri, an avid reader and a full time mommy.Veronica has put her successful career on hold to raise her two lovely kids)


Monday, August 23, 2010

Book discussion on "The Rozabal Line" between Pritish Nandy & Ashwin Sanghi


Landmark launches the mass-market paperback version of The Rozabal Line.
Find out what separates myth from reality in this national bestseller by Ashwin Sanghi.
The author will be in conversation with Pritish Nandy.
Date: August 26th 2010.
Time: 6:30 pm.
Venue: Landmark, Lower Level, Palladium, High Street Phoenix, Mumbai.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Review: Aftertaste



Aftertaste is Namita Devidayal’s second book after the critically acclaimed debut novel The Music Room. The Music Room was a winner of the 2008 Vodafone Crossword Popular Book Award and was named Outlook Book of 2007. So with an impressive debut like that it was obvious that the reader would have higher expectations from her second book. Well, does it match up with her first book or excels we would leave that for the reader to decide! But Aftertaste proves Namita’s writing prowess and her in depth research on the subject she has chosen to write about.

Aftertaste is the story of an Indian baniya (a prosperous community) family -The Todarmals who have moved from Punjab to settle in Bombay to make their fortune. If anyone who has interacted with any baniya would know that they are known to speak the language of money. Nobody understands money or the business of money better than a baniya. So the same is with the Todarmal family. The story is more driven by the lady of the house known as Mummyji who has managed to single handedly, with her business acumen and ideas, create a huge mithai business in Bombay. What started as a way to help her husband out of his financial mess by starting a small mithai business from her kitchen turns into a huge business with her razor sharp mind. After her husband’s death she takes over the entire reign of the business and helps it grow from strength to strength.

Mummyji has four children whom she dominates and manipulates as per her convenience. The family dynamics keep changing as and when she wishes. The author takes us in detail through the entire family; we have the eldest son Rajan Papa who comes across as a weak and ineffectual person and has been sidelined in the family business because of his unwillingness to change the business as per the modern demands of Sunny the youngest son. They both have a bitter fallout when Sunny proposes to change the name of the store from Bimmo di Barfi to a more contemporary Bimz and also branch out in various areas of the city. Mummyji decides to go with Sunny’s ideas leaving Rajan Papa very unhappy. Mummyji is also very interfering in her two married daughters’ lives Suman and Saroj. Money seems to be the only driving force in their lives and Mummyji is at the center of it all. So, when Mummyji ,just before Diwali suffers a stroke everyone is in a frenzy to take charge of her money, jewels and her Swiss bank account details. Things have become so unhappy that all of them secretly want her to die.

The only thing that holds the book back at times is that the family only comes across as a set of selfish, unscrupulous, bitter people who are bound together because of their relationship. Though they are in the business of sweets on the personal front it is only an acrimonious and bitter existence. At times you have to take a break from reading the book because it ends up leaving a bitter aftertaste and you almost wish for some happiness in their lives. The book tends to drag when the author painstakingly tries to explain every single character of the book and what makes them what they are.

But overall the entire book is a fascinating insight into the lives of a baniya family of traders and small businessmen. The author’s in depth research and understanding of such a family shines through the book. Whether it is her research on the mithai business or the psychology of the characters in the book, every single bit comes across as authentic and real. Her characters are well defined, her writing style impeccable.

It is a book you would enjoy reading despite its flaws.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: Call Me Dan


Anish Trivedi, an ex-investment banker is more popularly known for his stint as a Radio Jockey and a TV anchor. Call Me Dan is Anish’s debut novel. The topic he has chosen to write about may lead to comparisons with another erstwhile investment banker who is now an acclaimed author, Chetan Bhagat. The backdrop of the Chetan Bhagat’s book One Night at the Call Centre and Call Me Dan’s are the same. But this is where the similarity ends.
Call Me Dan is the story of thirty year old Gautam Joshi who works in a call centre in Mumbai. Gautam lives in Mumbai with his parents and a younger sister. While Gautam is happy with his call centre job his parents are not. They look at the job as that of a glorified telephone operator! They want him to change his job but he is perfectly happy with his life, his job and the perks that come along with it!
Gautam’s call name is Daniel but he prefers to be called Dan. Gautam wants to mould his actual life into that of Dan- a beer guzzling, smooth talking, cool dude. Dan is everything that Gautam is not. Dan is what Gautam aspires to be.
Gautam comes across as a very self-centered youth who believes in living for today. He has absolutely no compunctions lying to his girlfriend of four years, Michelle, family and friends. His world is only that of me, me, and me.
The book is very much as the blurb puts it “The book is a look at the new India, where arranged marriages and one night stand are all part of a young man’s search for love. Even true love.”
The book is well paced making the reader want to know what comes next but at the same time you find it difficult to relate with the characters. Most of the time, as a reader you feel, the characters of the book come across as shallow.
The book is a light and easy read without taxing your grey matter too much! A light hearted read which many of the call centre generation can identify with! An interesting debut novel.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guest Post : Review of Book of Humour




Ruskin Bond’s Book of Humor

The books I  generally choose to read revolve around some conflict. I needed a change and wanted something light to read and so, I picked this book of Ruskin Bond. I wasn’t disappointed.

This is a collection of short stories; not the ones that will make you laugh out loud, but might put a smile on your face.

The funniest one was Grandpa Tickles a Tiger where the author’s grandpa adopts a tiger and later sends his beloved tiger to zoo. Years later grandpa decides to meet his favorite tiger in the zoo.

The book starts with Uncle Ken, who likes to take things easy in life.  He is the favorite character of mine, probably because I aspire to be somewhat like him, the probability of which is as difficult as starting a colony in Mars.

There is story about owls and another one told from a crow’s perspective.Enjoyable.

There is a kind of dark comedy about the author’s uncle Bill who said it with arsenic.

Another favorite is Bhabhiji’s House, which brings a peep into the life of a middle class Punjabi joint family living in Rajouri Garden.

There are stories about ghosts, such as the one that goes after girls with long black hair.

I also liked All About my Walkabouts in which the author discusses his style of walking on the hills. I also like to walk (and it amazes me to see people taking their cars to go to a nearest store even if they could walk). But I just walk straight towards my destination while the author walks zig zag, enjoying the flora and fauna, and due to all these distractions sometimes moving ahead of the destination.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly mainly because it is a light read and doesn’t stress you up like many of the present novels do.

(This book is reviewed by hydelguy.He blogs at http://hydelguy.wordpress.com)

Guest Post : Review of The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I do not really pick up books that have romance written all over it (contrived?). But this novel was unique. What attracted me to this novel was the fusion of science fiction and romance. And when I started reading it, it had me hooked from the first page. The novel reads like a diary of a couple living in Chicago – Henry and Clare. Henry works as a librarian (somehow, I find that an attractive profession — the smell of books all around you, the pin drop quietness, the sound of crispy pages turning). Clare is an artist. Because the book reads like a diary with first person narrative and the dates marking each section, the personal touch of the book just connected me with the characters. Another thing that glued me to this book is the author’s imagination. Consider this, a husband meeting his wife when he is 36 and she is 6. Henry is suffering from a disorder that pulls him away to another time – past or future – and he has no control over it.  Henry keeps on moving into his past or future while Clare is hoping that her husband is safe. The book starts with a prologue where Clare is waiting for Henry, wondering if he is safe. She is feeling lonely. She compares her life to the days when men went to the sea and the wives waited for them looking at the horizon waiting for the ship to be seen.
Apart from the story line, the book touches various other aspects of life such as the father-daughter relationship, drugs, marriage, death, and childhood. But the book is mainly about marriage, I thought, cocooned in a wild fantasy plot.

The book has some 518 pages but the clarity is incredible. There are no muddled descriptions or descriptions just for the sake of showing off the skills of wordplay. Each page is a pleasure to read. I remember the first chapter where Clare is 20 and Henry is 28 and they meet in the library; Clare describes the library – the smell of a carpet cleaner, the sound of her boots rapping the floor, the autumn sunshine seeping through the tall windows. She is looking for a book, runs into Henry, he does not know her, she is stumbling for words as she says she met him when she was a little girl.

Another favorite scene of mine is when Clare is 28 and Henry is 36, Clare is sleeping, Henry materializes and lands above her, she is startled, but then both start laughing, and she sees that his mouth is bleeding. She asks him about it. He says she (Clare at 6) just threw a shoe at him.

Another thing that I like in this book are the dialogues, they seem so normal but at the same time so enchanting.

Overall, this is a classic.


(This book is reviewed by Hydelguy.He blogs at http://hydleguy.wordpress.com)


Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Nearly Departed

Nearly Departed


Rook Hastings



Set in the spooky town Woodsville, Nearly Departed is a horror story dealing with a group of teens in high school and the ghosts they confront. Jay, Kelly, Hashim, Bethan and Emily are from different levels in the high school’s hierarchy of popularity and are put together in a group to do an assignment. But what was meant to be homework turns out to be a search for a ghost when Emily Night, a timid girl hated by others claims to have seen one.

And out of these five, only four would live to look back upon what happened and shudder at the chilling truth they learnt.

After a series of events that convinces them of the presence of a ghost around them, a late night hunt for the ghost in Emily’s house leads her to reveal that her mother has been missing for a while. Tools they had used to detect ghosts also showed the ghost in Emily’s house. This leads to a hunt for the ghost, the most probable reason being that Emily’s mother is dead and is trying to contact her daughter to tell her the truth about her sudden disappearance.

What is mysterious is the fact that Emily doesn’t seem to remember a thing about the day her mother disappeared. This causes a lot of suspicion from the other kids and puts her under their scrutiny. Had Emily killed her own mother, and if not, why had she hidden something like that for so long?

The five teens are completely different from one another, but they learn to put aside their differences and work together to unravel the ghostly mysteries surrounding Emily. While Emily and Hashim have ghostly stalkers, Kelly has the same – only, her stalker is human, and he is looking to kill. Emily’s mother’s ghost isn’t the only ghost they encounter, and the most unlikely friendships are formed.

This book can cause some sleepless nights and the fear that a ghost might be lurking right under your bed. In the end, the teens do manage to learn about what happened to Emily’s mother but they also discover a horrifying truth – Emily was not who they thought she was.

Reviewed by Shivani Singh


Published by Harper Collins Children's Books

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review : The Crimson Throne


The Crimson Throne is a book which you look at, and think that ,it is yet another attempt, to understand the dynamics of Mughal era but then you read the story synopsis which begins with  these lines  ‘Emperor Shah Jahan’s pleasures of the flesh to divert himself from the travails of old age…’ and you are instantly interested in knowing more! This book definitely does not disappoint. An excellent account of the life and times of the period.

Shah Jahan’s reign was called the golden age of the Mughals and he was also considered one of the greatest Mughal emperors but at the same time stories abound about his various sexual exploits. This book is a brilliant mix of the two- the succession battle for the throne and harem tales of the empire. Seldom has any era of Indian history evoked such strong interest as much as the Mughal age especially Aurangzeb’s reign. Aurangzeb’s battle for succession and his long and orthodox rule after Shah Jahan was the turning point in Indian History.

The book is set in the period when Shah Jahan’s reign is almost ending and the battle to succeed him has already begun between his sons Dara Shukoh, Sultan Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh. They all believe that they deserve to be the next emperor to rule the country. During the Mughal period inheritance of power and wealth in the empire was not determined through primogeniture, but by princely sons competing to achieve military successes and consolidating their power at court. This often led to rebellions and wars of succession. As a result, a complex political climate surrounded the Mughal court at all times. The bloody battle for power makes this book a truly fascinating read.

The Crimson Throne is an account of two European travellers -Niccolao Manucci and Francois Bernier who arrive in 17th century India and find their way into the inner circles of the Mughal court.

Niccolao Manucci leaves Venice to travel to India in the hope that the golden land will lead him to riches. He is a rookie who on landing in Goa learns about medicines from Luigi while Vaidraj helps him by teaching him all about Hindu medicines and cures. While working as an orderly in a hospital he befriends Dona Christina Braganza who helps him to get a contact in Delhi, her sister Maria .Maria is an important person in Dara Shukoh's harem. On reaching Delhi he is taken by Dara Shukoh in his service. He soon starts gaining a name in the harem and his business starts flourishing. He establishes his reputation as a miracle healer and gains further confidence and access to the harems. So Niccolao recounts his various harem visits, the harem gossip, the insecurities of the women who are a part of the harem, their loneliness. Through Niccolao’s tales, the author manages to give the reader a brilliant insight into the lives of the women who were part of the seraglio.

Francois Bernier after graduating ad licentiate in Medicine sets sail for Surat from France. After spending a few days in Surat he is summoned to Delhi by Danishmand Khan who advises the emperor on foreign affairs. He soon gains Danishmand’s trust and Francois recounts his cerebral and philosophical exchanges with the minister. Through Francois’ recollection we get an account of the politics, the intrigue, the plotting and planning behind the succession. The ever changing equations between the brothers, the father and the sons, and even Shah Jahan’s daughters Jahan Ara & Roshan Ara play an important role in the entire event.

So both the Europeans end up on different sides of the camp, end up giving us an interesting and insightful account of that period. It is a well-researched effort by the author. Elegant and well-written, manages to keep the reader hooked till the very end.

Highly recommended reading for any reader interested in Mughal history.  

About the Author:

Sudhir Kakar is a distinguished psychoanalyst and writer. His critically acclaimed novels, The Ascetic of Desire, Ecstasy and Mira and the Mahatma, published by Penguin in India, have been translated into several languages around the world. He lives with his wife Katha, a writer, in Goa.

Publishers: Penguin India


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Pleasure Seekers

The Pleasure Seekers


By Tishani Doshi

Reviewed by Kiran Manral



In the slew of post colonial Indian writing in English, there are some works that make you sit up, pause and slow down your pace of reading so you savour the work to its fullest. Such a novel is Tishani Doshi’s debut novel The Pleasure Seekers.

A gentle, tender, evocative tale, based partly on her parent’s love story and her childhood, The Pleasure Seekers tells us how a Gujarati Jain boy from Chennai fell in love with a gap toothed Welsh girl in London and how they defied all odds, including an enforced separation by the boy’s parents to get married. And how, in the 1960s, the Welsh girl, Sian Jones, gave up the life she knew in order to live in India with Babo and become the perfect Indian bride. The novel moves on through their life, with the birth of their two daughters, Mayuri and Bean, Mayuri being the sensible one, and Bean, the imaginative, reticent child. As is mandatory in a story about Indian families, the extended family does play a vital role in the novel, with every character being fleshed out with empathy, insight and humour, whether it is Babo’s mother Trishala or his siblings, or Sian’s parents. Or even Babo’s grandmother Ba, who is a saintly presence, with powers of precognition that make her larger than life, or even Ignatius, the hermaprodhite who is etched sensitively, rather than made into a caricature of his type which so often happens when authors try to write about this community. As is appropriate to a story which spans four generations, the narrative has a larger than life, carnivalesque feel to it, with the levity being taken forward by the use of wonderful nonsense words at the end of some paragraphs, like for instance, “Ba-ba-boom, ba-ba-boom, ba-ba-boom-boom-boom,” Doshi’s sense of humour grows on one, with sudden bursts of levity even in situations which demand grimness, as when Babo’s father is trying to talk him out of his determination to marry Sian, and his mother Trishala is "perched outside the door all this time like an elephant trying to hide behind a potted plant, let out a squeal: a high-pitched wronged-mother squeal." The part of the children’s growing up years in Chennai is written beautifully, any adult will immediately get transported back to the days of his or her youth, with weekends on the beach, ghost sightings, and such like.

Beneath the superficial layer of the actual narrative is the underlying question of identity and belonging, that the children face being the result of a union between two people from different religions, races, cultures and countries. The hybridity is what makes these children different from the other children they grow up with in Madras, in the house with the orange and black gate. The country too goes through its incidents of historic significance as the narrative unfurls, Bhopal, Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the Gujarat earthquake et al. To the delight of the reader, magic realism is part of the narrative, but in touches just so minute as to be credible and not detract from the main theme of the novel which is the story of a family.

The book warms the cockles of your heart, and is determinedly droll and cheerful even through the old age and ill health of the characters. Tishani Doshi’s forte as a poet comes through in her prose, which is as lyrical as it is gentle and tender. Language takes on musical cadences, and prose becomes poetic. And the chapter titles are by themselves worth a read on the own. This, is, a brave new voice in the flood of new Indian writers writing in English.

Published by Bloomsbury
Price: Rs 499/-

Monday, August 9, 2010

Evernight

Evernight

Author: Claudia Gray
Harper Teen


A human-vampire romance, the conflicts faced by them… sounds clich├ęd?

But you’ll be missing out on one heck of a thriller if you don’t pick up this book.

Evernight revolves around Bianca Olivier, the latest entry to the spooky and Gothic Evernight Academy, a school that has seemingly perfect teens. They’re rich, confident and beautiful – everything Bianca isn’t. She meets another newbie called Lucas Ross, and Cupid strikes them.

Yet again, another author has managed to make young girls swoon and complain why all perfect guys are fictional. Lucas is a happier, funnier and lesser masochistic version of Edward Cullen. He has his faults, which makes his character credible – aside from the fact that he’s incredibly sexier.

The first half of the book shows the typical teenage life led by Bianca, lit up by her strong passions for Lucas and fraught with being surrounded by ‘mean girls’ and other gorgeous guys. That leaves you wondering how the book might have any sort of remotely evil matter. But this satisfies the teen’s hunger for reading about the ups and downs of high school life.

There’s a stunning revelation midway through the book that will leave readers wondering whether they have skipped some pages accidently. That’s when it becomes impossible to put the book down. There are vampires all around, and the humans at Evernight are in grave danger. This threatens Bianca and Lucas’ relationship, but ultimately when they’re back together again and happy, yet another truth is revealed, and this causes a crack in their anyway precariously balanced relationship. Because it turns out that they are mortal enemies, and nothing can change that. And there’s a possibility that they might never be able to be together – not when their families are clawing at each other’s throats.

Evernight is a must-read for young adults, irrespective of whether they’re sick of vampires. It is a fast-paced book that never fails to surprise and leaves the readers with mixed emotions. Go grab your copy and prepare to have your life paralyzed, since you wouldn’t want to put the book down until you’ve finished it.

Reviewed by Shivani Singh

The Poison Diaries

The  Poison Diaries


By Maryrose Wood


The Poison Diaries is a young English girl’s account of the daily happenings in her life. Jessamine is an innocent girl who stays at home and cooks and sews while her father is away. She is deeply interested in botany and how plants can be used to cure. This is no surprise since her father is considered an apothecary by the people in the village, but he is no pharmacist or surgeon. He has gardens all around his house where he grows rare species of plants and herbs – and poisons; which he blends to create cures for various diseases and wounds. He has a garden that is out of bounds of Jessamine and others where he grows the deadliest of poisons and nurtures them.

Jessamine dwells in a life of loneliness other than the company of poisons, until a day when an unexpected visitor leaves them with a gift – a young boy.

The young boy, called Weed, is a quiet and unfeeling boy due to his past and secrets he has kept ever since his birth. He has vast knowledge about how herbs and poisons can be used to heal; hence Jessamine’s father takes him under his wing. Both father and daughter are perplexed as to how without education or experience, he has a remedy for every ailment and wound.

As Weed gets closer to Jessamine, they fall in love. And as a result of his trust in her, he keeps her father in the dark but tells her his secret. Everything is fine for the two until a puzzling event causes Jessamine’s father to separate them. And right after, Jessamine gets seriously ill – a fatal illness to which Weed can’t find a cure.

The story then takes on how a lovelorn Weed sets out to find an antidote and breaks promises along the way just to save his beloved. But while Jessamine is in her deep slumber, and closer to death every second, who is the mysterious person who calls himself a prince in her dreams who shows her what’s actually happening beyond the confines of her room? Who had administered a poison to her and why? Envy, betrayal and murdering of the innocent follow. Will Jessamine survive? And even if she does survive, will it be at the cost of losing Weed and her father forever?

The Poison Diaries is a short book with a surprising end. It is not highly fast-paced and entertaining, but the author’s unique writing style makes it a good read.


Reviewed by Shivani Singh

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Review: Fault Lines-How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy



Fault Lines-How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy is a must read book for any citizen of the world today to understand the Macro Economics governing the world financial markets and the politics behind it.

Raghuram Rajan was one of the few economists who warned of the global financial crisis before it hit. Now, as the world struggles to recover, it's tempting to blame what happened on just a few greedy bankers who took irrational risks and left the rest of us to foot the bill. In Fault Lines, Rajan argues that serious flaws in the economy are also to blame, and warns that a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren't fixed.

The book, by Raghuram G. Rajan, is very well researched and the author comes across as an authority on the subject. In the book he presents his case and arguments clearly and succinctly. Even an average lay person will be able to easily grasp the complex world of finance and Economics. Raghuram’s book explores what were the various fault lines in the economy which developed into a full blown economic crisis of 2007-09.

The book goes back into history to draw parallels with various economic crisis of the past and how it culminated into the current economic situation.

Raghuram was the Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund from September 2003 until January 2007.He is an economic advisor to the Prime Minister of India. In Fault Lines, he presents his possible solutions to avoid the economic pitfalls facing the world today. Some of the solutions do seem a bit too farfetched and overly simplistic. The other downside is that the book is too US centric, that is, it presents the American viewpoint of the economic conditions.

Fault Lines is the book to read for anyone who would want to know what economic forces are shaping the world around us.

Recommended read and deserves to be!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Crossword: Book of The Month

After Taste by Namita Devidayal.
Rs 399/-





Book Summary of After Taste

Diwali 1984. Mummyji, the matriarch of a prosperous mithai business family, lies comatose in a Bombay hospital. Manipulative, determined, and seemingly invincible, Mummyji has held together her family through bribes of money, endless food, and adoration.

Surrounding her are her four children: the weak and ineffectual Rajan Papa who is desperately in need of cash; Sunny, the dynamic head of the business with an ugly marriage and a demanding mistress; Suman, the spoilt beauty of the family who is determined to get her hands on Mummyji’s best jewels; and Saroj, Suman’s unlucky sister, who has always lived in her shadow. Each one of them wants Mummyji to die.

Aftertaste tells the story of one business family and its bitter dynamics: of resentful bahus, emasculated sons, controlling mothers-in-law, and rapacious siblings. For at the heart of family lies money, not love. Full of rare period details and insights into the world of Baniya families, Aftertaste is worldly, astute, and utterly riveting.
Aftertaste tells the story of one business family and its bitter dynamics: of resentful bahus, emasculated sons, controlling mothers-in-law, and rapacious siblings. For at the heart of family lies money, not love. Full of rare period details and insights into the world of Baniya families, Aftertaste is worldly, astute, and utterly riveting.
About the Author
Namita Devidayal was born in 1968 and graduated from Princeton University. The Music Room, her first book, was a winner of the 2008 Vodafone Crossword Popular Book Award and was named an Outlook book of 2007. A journalist with The Times of India, Namita lives in Mumbai.





Non Fiction: Book of the Month

Tata: The Evolution of a Corporate Brand by Morgen Witzel
Rs 599/-


Book Summary
A series of high-profile acquisitions, including Jaguar Land Rover and Corus Steel, together with the launch of the Nano (the world’s first Rs. 1 Lakh/ below US$ 2500 car), is set to change our perception of India': on the threshold of becoming a truly global brand.*s oldest and most respected corporate brand.   With a major international presence, in a variety of areas including steel, tea, chemicals, communications and software, Tata now stands 65th in the world brand valuation league.
But what is the Tata brand all about? What are its values? How do people perceive it, in India and around the world?  In this absorbing and informed book Morgen Witzel digs into the heart of the Tata enterprise, describes its origins, how Tata's reputation and image evolved, and how the group has worked to transform that image into a powerful and valuable brand.  Tata: The Evolution of a Corporate Brand  goes to the core of the Tata ethos to explore the unique relationship between the Tata group and the Indian people, a relationship that goes beyond the achievements of a successful business to its social contributions for its employees and the society at large. Finally it asks how that reputation will be perceived and understood as Tata moves into global markets.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a manager, a marketer, or an interested Tata loyalist this book will help you understand the durability of the brand and inspire you with the values it holds onto in the global economy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Q&A with Priya Basil,author of The Obscure Logic of the Heart



Priya Basil, author of ,The Obscure Logic of the Heart, 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.The Book Lovers spoke to her about her book, her favourite  Indian authors and her support for Control Arms Campaign



Your book title is very interesting, how did this title come about?
     
 My original working title was I am Another You. The words are a translation of a Mayan greeting: ‘in lak’ech’. I think there’s something wonderfully affirmative about making such a statement when you meet someone, and the sentiment worked as a sort of guide for me while I was writing the book.
      
 However, my editor and agent didn’t feel this title was quite right. We went through lots of options, but none of them really inspired me. My editor eventually suggested ‘The Obscure Logic of the Heart’, which is taken from a sentence in the novel. It immediately felt absolutely perfect because it captures the essence of the story, and also something of the human condition.  

While writing this book did you disagree with any of the characters and the decisions they were taking?
   
Part of the purpose of writing this novel was to explore mindsets quite different from my own, in particular a devout religious sensibility. While creating each character, I did momentarily support their thoughts and actions. This is the wonder of writing – when you really get in to a character you understand that they have their own integrity, and you must follow that to produce truly resonant, powerful literature.
    
 Writers don’t create characters they like and agree with only. The greatest challenge of writing is to express, credibly and sympathetically, views, motives and feelings that one does not share. When the writer succeeds then the reader too is able to make the leap into understanding, and even feeling close to, a character that is completely other. 

Did any real life incident or people inspire the characters and influence the story of this book?

No specific person or incident inspired the story, rather it was the result of an accumulation of experience and observations. 

Would Lina and Anil's story be any different if her parents, Shareef and Iman, were not as strongly opposed to the relationship?

This is one of those possibilities that haunt every life. We all know what it is to be tormented by ‘if only’ and ‘what if’ – and we also know how rarely one thing alone is decisive in any situation. Lina and Anil’s relationship is complicated on many levels. Her parents are but one knot in a thread that is also tangled by her religion, social values and, indeed, her character. 

Is Lina's love for Anil a silent rebellion against her parents and their religious beliefs?

I don’t conceive of love as a reaction against something. Rather, I see it as an emotion of affirmation, an attraction to something or someone. You don’t truly love something simply because it’s the opposite of what is disturbing or oppressive to you, you love it for some quality inherent in itself.


You are a supporter of Control Arms Campaign; could you tell us more about that?

I always knew that the heroine of The Obscure Logic of the Heart would have a strong social conscience, which would clash with the private realities of her own life. During the early stages of writing, the problem of piracy in the Indian Ocean, along the coast of Somalia, made lots of headlines. One particular incident, about a ship carrying arms, caught my attention because of Kenya’s alleged involvement in the procurement of weapons that were destined for South Sudan, which is under an arms embargo.
  
 I began to read up about arms dealing, and was shocked by the scale of the trade, especially the illegal aspect of it. The international arms trade is considered by Transparency International to be one of the three most corrupt businesses in the world. The UK is one of the five biggest arms suppliers in the world, and India is one of the five biggest recipients.

 I am for all efforts to curb the arms trade and make it more accountable. One way for me to express this was through my fiction, but I’m now also interested in finding other ways to highlight the issue. I support the Control Arms Campaign, which is a global civil society alliance campaigning for an Arms Trade Treaty that will help protect lives. 

What are you working on next?

The idea for my third novel is just taking shape in my mind. It will involve a fair bit of research, which I have yet to get started on. In the meantime, I am working on some non-fiction and short stories.

     Who would you say are your favourite Indian authors?

Salman Rushdie and Hari Kunzru. 

What is your advice to anyone wanting to write a novel?

I can’t offer anything better than the age-old recommendations: read eclectically and excessively, and write daily and diligently.

Read the book review here.