Monthly Archives: April 2011

Book Review of “Daughters : A Story Of Five Generations” By Bahrati Ray

Daughters : A Story Of Five Generations

By Bharati Ray

Each generation comes with a past and makes way for the future.

“Daughters: A Story Of Five Generations” by Bharati Ray is one splendid read that peeps into five generations (spanning late nineteenth century to the twenty-first century) and reveals the characteristics of the women of each era, which in turn reflects on the way the Indian society was and how it is today.

It begins with Sundar-ma, the author’s great-grandmother. A woman of the nineteenth century, she was married at the age of twelve into a conservative household. She was intelligent, self educated and a brave participant of India’s freedom struggle.

Ushabala, the author’s grandmother, was the proud wife of a college lecturer and a consummate home-maker. She wanted to give her daughter (Kalyani) what she, as an individual, could not achieve – a good education.

Kalyani, the author’s mother was feisty and irrepressible. A keen traveler, she was the first woman in the family to get a college degree, but gave up her studies and a career to raise her children. And Kalyani’s academic success paved the path for the author’s achievements.

Bharati Ray was a lecturer in Calcutta University and became its first woman pro-vice-chancellor. She was also a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha.

And finally we get to know Bharati Ray’s daughters, Khuku and Tista, both extremely strong and bright individuals, leading a busy, fulfilling life.

The author narrates the life and time of her great grandmother (during India’s freedom struggle) and charts the journey to her daughters (the twenty-first century independent women).

She reflects and evaluates the thoughts of society; the history; and the upward progress the nation (and of course the society) has made since Independence.

Each generation progressed towards betterment and education. And how!

The individual choices the women made; their connection with their mother and daughters; and the societal growth at large reflects beautifully in this book.

It covers all aspects of the Indian society and reflects on the way the lives of women have changed over past couple of centuries. What was denied earlier is now a compulsion. What was hated earlier is now cherished. The progress our society has made and how it has molded each generation is beautifully described by the author.

This chronicle of the lives of five generations of women in the author’s family makes for a fantastic read. Pick it up and you won’t regret a single minute spent with the book.

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Book Review of “I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted” By Nick Bilton

I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted

By Nick Bilton

Nick Bilton, a technology writer for The New York Times, has quite brilliantly expressed his ideas about the changes the digital world has brought. His book I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted, focuses in the emerging online applications, like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare that win with their “immediate action and reaction” instead of quality; and affect the future.

People love to talk about themselves and hear (good) about themselves. Each one has a story to share – be it over a blog, or a status update, or a tweet. It has become a daily routine. But the question as to how credible media can retain or engage its existing or new users is still to be answered.

He hints at capturing “consumnivores.”

Appreciating the video games that have everyone hooked indoors, Bilton says that video games are “engaging, immersive, truly multimedia storytelling and can draw in participants more powerfully than many traditional storytelling methods.” They are refreshing as well as entertaining. They make the user more alert and take up undivided attention. It is a good way of getting a person to adapt to certain professions – like in the case of pilots who have to undergo intensive video simulation session to practice for real flights. It improves their reflexes and peripheral vision.

He even hints that the porn and the games industry can give offer lessons to mainstream business, but how they do that – he doesn’t explain. He seems to be a visionary of sorts that is thinking way to ahead for our time.

I remember one my professors once telling us (during a Mass Media lecture) that technology is always first misused, abused and then used. Seems like it all is falling true in this book.

Technology and online media gaining velocity has captured the lives of Gen Y. More than half the population of teenagers are forever online – staying in touch with their peers and (hopefully) gathering information. And he rightfully talks about societal fears that doubts the bursting of the bubble of information available in a click; and rise of media might that might end up distracting us more and ruining habits and relationships.

But ignorance is no longer bliss. Turning away from the facts is not going to make it disappear. Changes have to be adapted and strategies have to be invented and processes have to be learnt to make this global technological evolution an advantageous bit rather than bring the downfall of humanity.

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Book Review of “Love On The Rocks” By Ismita Tandon Dhankher

Love On The Rocks

By Ismita Tandon Dhankher

Just when we thought new age writers try and stick to fiction and other lighter reads, Love on the rocks by Ismita Tandon Dhanker comes like a breath of fresh air.

Sancha is recently wed to Chief Officer Aaron Andrews of the merchant navy and they decide to go together for one of his journeys, on board the Sea Hyena. Amongst more than twenty men, Sancha does catch the fancy of First Engineer Harsh Castillo, who is also Aaron’s best friend. The ship had recently witnessed the death of their chief cook (Gary) who was found dead in the meat locker.

 

It was termed as an accident but when there’s a theft from the captain’s safe, things begin to puzzle Sancha. She takes it on her to investigate the mysteries. All the men come under her radar- including her husband. Clues point at people that she wouldn’t imagine being culprits. She finds herself at the cross roads of love, honesty and integrity. How the truth is revealed and what follows in Sancha’s life is for you all to read.

A new plot, a new setting and a refreshingly new perspective of life on board a ship. Sprinkled with humor and backed with ample research, the plot does not fade out. The author does full justice to the mystery and thriller setting that is supposed to be the crux of the novel. Decently paced, the simple language of the story shows the different perspectives of the characters. And all of them are finely etched.

A good read. As a debut writer Ismita shows tremendous maturity in her writing.

Rightly said, this is a romantic thriller that tests the bonds of love and marriage against a backdrop of suspense, intrigue and psychological undercurrents.

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Book Review of “Skunk Girl” by Sheba Karim

Skunk Girl

By Sheba Karim

Set in a small town of New York, the story revolves around Nina Khan and her life at her high school – Deer Hook High. As if being culturally different wasn’t enough, she is expected to follow and uphold the image set by her “perfect” older sister. It shows Nina’s struggle (with her parent and friends) to fit in.

High school is amongst the most difficult time of a youngster’s life. And the burden of “cultural differences” and “sibling comparison” can make it worse. Nina’s elder sister is like the ideal daughter of any family. Good with her academics as well as the upholder of family values. 

Nina has two BFF who’ve stuck with her through thick-n-thin. Nina Khan belongs to a Muslim American family and she is prohibited from dating and attending parties. So while her BFF go around having fun, she is expected to sit at home and study.

It is a strict “No No” for Nina when it comes to dating. So when a new (hot) Italian guy, Asher, joins high school and Nina falls “head over heels” for him, she has no idea how to ask him out.

Oh life isn’t a smooth one for Nina. Traumatized with her facial hair, she feels more humiliated when Asher catches a glimpse of the dark line of hair starting from the nape of her neck running down the middle of her back (like a skunk stripe). The thought of Asher dating someone else because of her shortcomings (appearance) breaks her heart.

She plans to sneak out one night to attend a party and met Asher. But how her mind controls her actions makes up for a great read.

Nina is caught between two worlds. Her traditionalist parents who want her to follow their beliefs and customs and her friends who want her to let lose sometimes and enjoy life and their growing up years. Pretty much realistic situations for any teenager. She doesn’t want her parents to control or ruin her life but she cannot be rebellious. Her family is nice and kind and a bunch of intelligent lot. But they feel Nina is getting more “Americanized”. Towards the end, she comes to realize and appreciate her cultural heritage and her parents concern about keeping her safe and protected.

The story, I feel, was a bit different. Teenagers and I guess most adults would be able to relate to it. The character of Nina is very likable. I thought she would rebel and throw tantrums and be a brat. But no sir. She doesn’t do any of that. Until the end that is. There are a lot of relatable instances throughout the book. The story is heartfelt; the writing is tight; the pace is good; and the plot is quite gripping. Ample of humor and thought provoking scenarios keep you hooked.

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Book Review of “Pyramid of Virgin Dreams” By Vipul Mittra

Pyramid of Virgin Dreams

By Vipul Mittra

A brilliantly written satire that reveals the professional lives of IAS officers and the babus in government offices.

I had to go slow with the book not just because of its pace, but because I loved the language. And I wanted to savor each word till the very last page. What a finely written piece of fiction! The quality of writing is much higher than seen in any of the contemporaries. Commendable literary work.

Authors usually write in simple short crisp sentences to make it easier for the masses to understand the plot/story. Vipul is a brave-heart to have indulged in an intellectual usage of dominating words that are not complicated but definitely need undivided attention to make sense in the reader’s head.

The story overall is pretty interesting. It is broken in different bits that reveal Karthikeye’s growing up years; his determination to get into IAS; his will to be an idealistic officer; his disagreement (sometimes) with his conscious (selfmusing); his fantasies; his constant transfers; his married life; and his interaction and perception of other people in the bandwagon of bureaucracy and society. He is a mature, wise, idealistic, humorous and an honest IAS officer (a rarity in real life!).

The narration is interesting and the instances very relatable. The books gives a good insight to the world of babudom – the tongue-n-cheek incidents, the sarcasm, the power play by the ones in higher seats, and the ass-kissing agents (Joshi), are very smartly portrayed.

There’s emotion, satire, humor, and a bit of romance. Kartikeye, his wife Akansha, his kids (Chirag and Roshni), his conscious “Selfmusing”, are very finely sketched.

The pace of the plot is somewhat slow. But thankfully it does not have a hoard of characters. A refreshing insider’s take on the working of government office and officials, smeared with comical caricatures that reflect the “real taste” of India.

Aspiring civil services aspirants should give this a read.

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Book Review of “Life is what you make of it” By Preeti Shenoy

Life is what you make it

By Preeti Shenoy

 

Here’s a story that feels more real than truth itself.

The story revolves around Ankita Sharma, the main protagonist. She is a regular college going kid with her share of fun, masti, friends, romantic inclinations and all other activities kids nowadays indulge in. She is an intelligent girl, with her head firmly on her shoulders. She has certain fixed aims and goals in life and has a plan to work towards achieving them.

Life is good.

But then it seems like God has another plan. 

Ankita starts showing signs of mental illness and her medical checks reveal Bipolar Disorder. Her life is thrown into mayhem.

What follows is a gripping tale of courage, faith, love and belief.

Ankita strives to bring her life back to normal – fighting the demons of depressions and regaining control over her life.

You begin to care for Ankita. You wish she heals quickly and gets the life she deserves.

A highly sensitive and intense subject beautifully portrayed by Preeti shows her skill as an excellent author. The finer details about the disorder show the author’s perspective and in-depth research. She does complete justice to the situations, the feelings, the characters, and yes, most importantly the title.

The characters and the settings come alive as you read on. The feelings and the emotions of Ankita, her parents and loved ones touch your heart and your soul.

The narration is very tight and apt. While you seem to enjoy life with Ankita during her college days; you won’t be able to hold back your emotions (if not your tears) during the latter part that shows Ankita’s struggle and pain. Free flowing simple words but highly effective. No over-rated drama or exaggerated scenes.

It is a coming of age novel that blends emotions, sensitivity, feelings and maturity in the right proportion to inspire readers to never give up hope. Life is never the same. Ups and downs are inevitable. But belief in oneself, determination to pass it through, and faith in the Almighty sets all problems aside.

I do wish to pick up her first book – 34 Bubblegums and Candies soon.

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Book Review of “Daughters:A Story Of Five Generations” By Bharati Ray

Daughters : A Story Of Five Generations

By Bharati Ray

Each generation comes with a past and makes way for the future.

“Daughters: A Story Of Five Generations” by Bharati Ray is one splendid read that peeps into five generations (spanning late nineteenth century to the twenty-first century) and reveals the characteristics of the women of each era, which in turn reflects on the way the Indian society was and how it is today.

It begins with Sundar-ma, the author’s great-grandmother. A woman of the nineteenth century, she was married at the age of twelve into a conservative household. She was intelligent, self educated and a brave participant of India’s freedom struggle.

Ushabala, the author’s grandmother, was the proud wife of a college lecturer and a consummate home-maker. She wanted to give her daughter (Kalyani) what she, as an individual, could not achieve – a good education.

Kalyani, the author’s mother was feisty and irrepressible. A keen traveler, she was the first woman in the family to get a college degree, but gave up her studies and a career to raise her children. And Kalyani’s academic success paved the path for the author’s achievements.

Bharati Ray was a lecturer in Calcutta University and became its first woman pro-vice-chancellor. She was also a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha.

And finally we get to know Bharati Ray’s daughters, Khuku and Tista, both extremely strong and bright individuals, leading a busy, fulfilling life.

The author narrates the life and time of her great grandmother (during India’s freedom struggle) and charts the journey to her daughters (the twenty-first century independent women).

She reflects and evaluates the thoughts of society; the history; and the upward progress the nation (and of course the society) has made since Independence.

Each generation progressed towards betterment and education. And how!

The individual choices the women made; their connection with their mother and daughters; and the societal growth at large reflects beautifully in this book.

It covers all aspects of the Indian society and reflects on the way the lives of women have changed over past couple of centuries. What was denied earlier is now a compulsion. What was hated earlier is now cherished. The progress our society has made and how it has molded each generation is beautifully described by the author.

This chronicle of the lives of five generations of women in the author’s family makes for a fantastic read. Pick it up and you won’t regret a single minute spent with the book.

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Book Review of “Trace” by Patricia Cornwell

Trace by Patricia Cornwell

Another Scarpetta novel by Patricia Cornwell.

The story is essentially set in modern day Richmond and revolves around D. Kay Scarpetta returning after five years to help on a case.

A fourteen year old is found dead with no evidence or cause of death.

Scarpetta’s new boss – Dr. Joel Marcus seeks her help. But this comes as a surprise to Scarpetta since she believes he barely knows her. The truth is that Dr. Marcus has a hidden agenda behind getting Scarpetta to Richmond.

 

As Marino, Scarpetta’s retired police officer friend, chips in to help her investigate the mysterious death they cross paths with an FBI agent who almost messes things up. Scarpetta gets some clues from her boyfriend in Aspen, who is also working on a case without Scarpetta’s knowledge. Somehow both the cases are linked.

Scarpetta has the knack of getting down to the truth of the matter and solving the matter outright. It turns out that the 14 year old was killed by a serial killer. Though there is no evidence to trace the killer, Scarpetta eventually finds her way out.

It is a very well crafted detective-thriller with action taking place in South Florida, Richmond, Virginia and Aspen. The clues are haywire but the way in which Scarpetta connects the dots is commendable. I enjoyed the whole plot and the fine writing skills of Cornwell.

Read it.

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Book Review of “The Beach House” by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge

The Beach House

By James Patterson and Peter de Jonge

A good paced legal thriller.

Jack is a law student at the Columbia University. He is shocked to hear the news of his brother’s death by drowning. Cops claim it is because of drug overdose and eventual drowning. But truth be told – he is murdered. Peter’s body was found on the Amagansett estate of the famous and wealthy Neubauer family. When Jack sees the body he is convinced it is not a normal death. There are some marks on his body that confirm his belief.

Jack starts his own investigation and turns on the heat on the local cops as well as the Neubauer family. Soon he has a thug on his trail threatening and frightening him.

Jack’s girlfriend too walks out on him. His father dies. He loses his internship. But he still believes justice will be served. And his grandfather supports him all the way.

But the people with money controlling the power seem to have a highly treacherous and deadly secret to hide. And they would do anything to keep it under wraps. And they buy the lawyers, doctors, friends and cops – anyone and everyone who has a price. Lies, deceit, revenge, money, mayhem engulf the victim and everyone around him.

Lots of twists and surprises make this an engrossing read.  JP and Peter de Jonge deliver another fast-paced thrilling page-turner.

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Book Review of “Hard Eight” by Janet Evanovich

Hard Eight

By Janet Evanovich

This hysterically funny downright crime thriller is full of action. Super fast paced that it is, I was able to finish it at one go – enjoying the few hours of my otherwise mundane Friday night.

Stephanie Plum, our beloved sloppy/inept bounty hunter has to hunt down Evelyn and her daughter. After having divorced her husband Steven, Evelyn had taken child custody by using her mother’s house for collateral in the bond. Now that she has disappeared, her absence on the day of the hearing will make her mother lose the house. Steph, of course, has to help out.

 

But as she begins her job, a dead body is found on her couch (it is Steven); she is stalked (by a killer rabbit!); and threatened to death(by some powerful crime lord). Did I mention her cars (yes, two of them) are blown up in this one?!

Joe and Ranger are by her side to protect her. But our brave-heart has to undergo her share of thrill.

Our regulars – Lula and Grandma Mazur join in to set the “comedy of errors” trying to capture the bad guys and manage to stay alive. Steph’s sister and her parents add the much needed drama.

This is no great plot as such, but the sheer comic nature and the colorful personalities make this a quick, light and purely entertaining read.

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