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Book Review of Kiss That Frog by Brian Tracy & Christina Tracy Stein

For a person like me, shaken up by reality of people around, this book came as a much needed burst of positivity at the most crucial stage of my life.

KTF

The book highlights seven truths about us that we probably did not pay attention to. As humans, our conditioning is such that a negative thought, or feeling, pops us more often than not, instead of a positive one.

The books helps us introspect our natural state. And it is not the one that reflects sadness. It the happy state that we are born with.

The authors show us ways to unlock our potential, knowing that we are the best in all that we do, forgiving people and forgiving ourselves to unblock all channels in our mind that have hampered our progress.

Not all frogs are negative. We encounter them or meet them as a part of the bigger plan. We must have the belief and faith that there is a valid reason for them being in our life.

And as for the negative frogs, we have to be aware and alert enough to eliminate them from our life.

A Must Read!

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Interview with Judy Balan

 

As I walked in to the bookstore for the launch of Judy Balan’s debut novel, Two Fates: The Story of my Divorce, I was greeted with a sweet smile and a hint of a rollicking time!
I managed to get Judy’s time and attention before the launch and indulged in a candid interview.
On enquiring about the ideation of the story, she was quick to respond, “I happened to be in a store   and noticed Drink, Play, F@ck, the parody of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. The author of the    parody had managed to sell film rights to his book and I thought, “Wow! You can simply rip off a  best seller and do wonders!” I was reading Chetan Bhagat’s “Two States: The Story of my Marriage”,  and I thought of doing a parody of the book.
I went home, and posted this incident on my blog and asked my readers if they thought it was a good idea. And most of them reverted with a “yes”. Would you believe it only took me about less than three months to wrap up the book!” smiled the author. Continuing her part of the story, she said, “And it was a wonderful experience. I was surprised as to how quickly I even found publishers willing to launch my book. It truly felt like a Cinderella moment…”

So do we see glimpses of her life in this book? “No no! This is definitely not the story of my divorce,” Judy responded quickly. “In fact the only thing common between me and the character of Deepika is the job (as a copywriter).”
“Oh and the aunties of course! The ones who keep coming up to me or my parents enquiring about my age, and they seem to be obsessing about my marriage and my divorce more than my folks. It’s hilarious (now) but it is so true!”
Digging a bit in to her professional background I enquired about her decision to be a “full time parent”.
“Well, even after those five and a half years in the advertising agency as a copywriter I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t satisfied doing what I was doing. I was scared to quit initially as I did not know what I would do next. Quitting was not an option but when my divorce came through I knew I had to dedicate time to my girl. The ups and downs of divorce were terrible. I took up freelance writing and of course started blogging ardently.”
So how was life at home? “Very different. It was mundane, yes. It took me about a bit to adopt the sedentary lifestyle. There was a drastic change in momentum. But it gave me time to spend with my daughter and write. It was the best thing that happened to me.”
Ask her if she would plunge in to a marriage (or love) again and she chirps, “Why not! I’m a die-hard romantic. A million times bitten and still not shy sort of a person. Divorce hasn’t made me cynical. I’m the incurable optimistic who still writes letter to “the one”. If life gives me a chance to fall in love, I’d dive!”
As the focus shifted to her writing and her blog, she confessed “Blog writing gives you almost instant gratification. Your readers revert real quick. Writing a book, a fiction, needs commitment. It is hard work.”
For those who don’t know, Judy also writes scripts for plays. Her shyness prevents her from being on stage, but off-stage she seems to be the “queen of the written word”. “I would love to have a column someday, though my blog sometimes serves more like a column,” smiled Judy. “But writing an epic adventure series (like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series) is one thing I look forward to. I know it’s a long long way yet, and for now I will focus on light fiction about relationships and break-ups.”
Humor and comedy is one key ingredient Judy feels that she cannot do without in the books she reads and pens. “If you’ve read Two States, you’d get all the jokes in my book”, confessed the author sheepishly.
“I do love romantic comedies. Nothing can quite beat Erich Segal’s Love Story and Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult’s works. I also like reading books by Candace Bushnell and Marian Keyes and Elizabeth Gilbert.”
Getting to the juicy part of the conversation, we asked Judy to share an exclusive detail about her as a writer and she confessed, “My writing will always precede the love of my life. I think I devote more time to my writing than anything else.”
And Judy as a mother? She quickly said, “I’m forever obsessing over the fact that I’m not good enough. Trust me, all that art and craft and wonderful things parents do for their kids, I’m bad at all that.”


Over more smiles and jokes I enquired about her next book and she said, “It’s wonderful how I’ve already signed the deal for my next book. It is again a light fiction. But I can’t give out much on it. You’ll have to wait a bit!”
For sure we would look forward to her next book, since her first one has definitely got us hooked!
It’s true all good things definitely come in small packages. And this package is amongst the best!
I’m sure she captured more hearts and readers with her smile and her book that evening.

 

Grab a copy of her book before the stores run out of copies! You will definitely enjoy the read.

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To Date Or Not To Date

There was a blog by Rosemarie Urquico on “Date a girl who reads” that created ripples. That was a response to Charles Warnke’s “You should date an illiterate girl”.

 

Since I was almost facing a “writer’s block” and couldn’t think of a blog idea, I thought, why not jot points for people who wish to date. So we can take a look at pros and cons of dating people who are well read, vs. others who disregard books.

Let’s begin with the cons. (No, I’m not a pessimist. I just want the negative out of the way.)
•    A person who loves to read and write would know just too well when you are lying.

•    They would be your grammar police when you least expect them to be.

•    They would be more crazier than you –speaking like Shakespeare, imagining likeRowling, reciting like Keats, talking about Gainman and what have you!

•    They will be master storytellers telling you off. They would have their expectations running high –thanks to all romantic/mystery novels they would’ve gulped by now.

•    They would be gaining more limelight, than you, amongst your peers. And sometimes more weight, sitting around with books as their sole companions.

•    They might, sometimes, be too engrossed in a book to pay attention to you. And sometimes they might end up paying more attention to details than expected.

•    They might lose their cool and snap at you, just because the protagonist behaved like an ……..
And now for the pros:

•    Cost

One of the most important of all factors. (Yes, let’s be practical.) Dating a person who reads implies an inexpensive affair. Books nowadays do cost a lot. Unless they are from some of the Indian publishers who save on the paper quality and offer books for like a mere Rs. 100!
Getting him/her a library card would go easy on your mind and pocket. And also relieve you of thinking, “What should I gift him/her now!?”
Dating a person who does not read implies there is greater cost involved. Imagine the kind of shopping some people indulge in – guys and their electronic gadgets; and girls with their (bare) clothing. Oh this is much more expensive!!!

 

•    Conversation abilities

Hands down I think a well read person can engage you in intellectual conversation, over a person who absolutely scorns books and newspapers. A well read person adds value to your knowledge bank. He/she can help you spin fantastic stories, and dwell in a world of goblins and fairies when you need some cheering.

•    Personality
A person who reads would be wise. (Let’s just say so for conversation sake.) He/she would be more composed and mannered than a person who doesn’t. He/she will understand that failure doesn’t mean the end of the world. A sequel can be written and life will move on. Success will follow. After all, you are the lead of your life story.

•    World of fantasy
There can be so much to talk about, so much to imagine, so much to fantasize about, with a person who reads, (and reads good stuff) over a person who can’t even make decent stories to save his/her life.

•    Priorities
Well…at times his/her books would gain priority over you. But it’s better than indulging in mindless banter with a person who knows not much. True you will be given all the attention and pampering by a person who doesn’t care much for books, but is that of any value when there is no growth, individually or together. If you crave for intellectual challenges, be prepared to not indulge in any with the person who cares not for the written word.

•     Simple living. High thinking.
Apart from the fact that this is Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, it is quite relevant in life. The person gobbles up words like a hungry reader is sure to find pleasures in simple things in life. A flower, the rainbow, the first drop of rain, a butterfly, a coloring book, colors, stationary, anything that brings in a smile instantly without any effort. He/she would inspire you more than life itself, someday!

 

•    Life

Life will no longer be bland with a person who reads. Imagine adventures, treasure hunts, fantasy world stories. You might end up having weird (in a nice way) kids with weirder tastes and observation powers. Growing old with that person would be so much easier and fun. It’s true when they say, marry a person who you can talk to, because when you are old, it’s only good conversations that keep you going. He/she would recite KeatsWordsworthShakespeare,WhitmanWilde with much ease when you wish to hear a few words of love.

•    Other factors
It’s better to have you partner check out books than check out other people when with you. And who doesn’t make mistakes? We all are human after all. At least you can expect a well-worded apology in case you partner goofs up at some place.

All the places that you cannot afford to visit can be imagined and improvised in the company of a partner who utilizes his/her creative abilities to the hilt. He/she will lend you a listening ear. Always. Because, he/she knows how to give someone their undivided concentration.

He/she would know when to get serious and when not. He/she would appreciate your passion just like their’s.

So you see…there are too many pros of dating a well-read person. So go ahead, find yourself a…

good book and begin reading. NOW!

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Thou Shall Read. Everyday.

There are a lot many distractions nowadays for everyone. Work, Internet, Playstation, Xbox, or simply the idiot box. Who has the time or patience to read? Right??

But if you put your mind to it, you’d see it’s not that difficult. Here are some pointers to help you:

Gather good reading material: There is no dearth if you just look around. With so many books stores, book stalls (those small road-side vendors have to make a living too and more often than not, you are sure to find a book of your liking instantly!), and yes abundant ebooks. Books are all around us. All we have to do is look. And pick up the ones that interest us.

Always carry a book: You never can say where you can get stranded. And a book becomes a boon at such times. Even while traveling for that matter.


Make a Reading List:
Make a list of all the books you want to read or bestsellers suggested by friends/family. Add to the list when you hear about a good book. And strike out the ones you have read.


Get yourself enrolled in a library:
Libraries might be almost facing neglect. But each city at least one library that hoards volumes of reading material –some which you wouldn’t have even heard of. If you happen to find a small library close to your house, give it a try. The enrollment fee is never too much considering the deals you get in return.

Set aside your reading hour: Create a reading ritual of sorts. Everyday for an hour or so, make sure you read, without interruptions. Preferably a book. Else a magazine or the newspaper. Or if not an hour, break it down into 10-15 minute spans between other activities.
You could also encourage your kids to read with you and discuss things out. Sometime company does matter. Joint reading sessions with friends or family members will help you push yourself that extra bit to read ahead.

Time Management: We all have busy schedules, no doubt, but we also are efficient time managers. Utilize this skill to set your reading schedule. If you can’t think where to squeeze in a book, reduce TV/Internet time and use it for reading. Problem solved!


Reading Space:
If it helps, choose a reading corner for yourself. Certain spaces give you more peace and relaxation. It could be corner in your house or your room, or a park bench, or roof, anywhere. If there is no quiet space around you, go ahead –create one!

 

Join a book club: This is one of the most important points, I feel, that helps you get into the grove of reading. Be it an online or an offline book club, join it. Read the book within the timeline set by the members and indulge in discussions. You will be surprised with the results.


Indulge in discussions: Even if you are not a part of a book club, indulging in a book discussion is an asset. If you have a partner who you can talk to about the book, the plot, the characters, the ideation, the author and the entire gamut, it would add to your fondness for reading. Tyr doing it over mealtime, you might enjoy your food more.

Associated Activities: Attend book launch events and book reading sessions. Interaction with book lovers and authors is known to open up your perspective in different ways.

 

Blog it: If you don’t have anyone to discuss it with, blog about it. Blog it all –your reading list, books you’ve read, write book reviews, or just about anything about books, authors and the like.
Oh, and don’t be surprised on being contacted by other book lovers after that.


Read, write your own stories: What better way to read books that are of personal interest. Or better still, write short stories (to begin with) about things you notice, or things you personally would like to read.

 


But remember:

You can never force yourself or someone to read. Over time if a person starts enjoying the habit of reading, it can turn out to be one of the most wondrous of all activities.
Also, don’t be over enthusiastic when you first begin. Don’t set high goals for yourself, because if not met you would end up hating the activity forever.

Books indeed are the best friends of mankind. They can be most satisfying at times, yes better than chocolate! Reading is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable of all activities.
Reading not only sharpens your thought process, but also increases your attention span. It broadens your vocabulary, your perspectives and your outlook. It boosts your imagination and creative skills. It brings you closer to people with similar taste. But most importantly, it brings you closer to yourself.

Reading (books) is one inheritance your children will cherish forever.

Read them. Love them. Treasure them.

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Books and Authors that make you laugh.

I like the fact that some young authors are exploring the lost art of humor writing and coming up with funny books. Here are some of the recent few helpings (of books) that I relished.


Horn OK Please – HOPping to Conclusions by Kartik Iyengar, is a fun-tastic read. It chronicles Kartik’s journey across the country with his friends. The book is hilarious. It has anecdotes from the journey and snippets of randomness that end up instigating brain waves to ponder on the reality around us. A great read -to treasure and cherish!

Dork: The Incredible Adventures Of Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese, by Sidin Vadukut, is a chronicle of a dork. Blunders, mishaps, and errors are a plenty. Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese becomes more of person than just a character. Absolutely hilarious read.

Pyramid Of Virgin Dreams by Vipul Mittra is a brilliantly written satire that reveals the professional lives of IAS officers and the babus in government offices. 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.
Corporate Atyaachaar: The Comical Journey Of An Office Doormat by Abhay Nagarajan, tells the story of a twenty four year old financial advisor as he encounters many ‘non-financial’ experiences including a dancing dog which suffers from a memory loss, a revelation that a client enjoys hog body massages, a client who paints nude art for charity, a curious case of a ‘stubborn’ nipple and a house hunt for a missing musical mobile!

May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss by Arnab Ray, GreatBong, is a sarcastic, politically incorrect and totally irreverent look at assorted random stuff including Bollywood C-grade revenge masalas, ribald songs of the people, movie punching, fake educational institutes, stubborn bathroom flushes, unreal reality shows, the benefits of corruption, opulent weddings, brains in toaster ovens, seedy theatres and pompous non-resident Indians.

The Mad, Mad World Of Cricket by Sudhir Dhar, captures the funny side of Cricket. All illustrations depicting the witty style of the artist, take a dig at the state of the country when the Cricket season is in full bloom!

The pioneer R. K. Laxman and his quips on the Indian society through the eyes of the common man make for the best satire.

Who can ever forget P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Blandings Castle novels and short stories? The renowned English humorist is best known for the eccentric characters and humorous plots making his readers laugh at every single opportunity.

Oh! and one of my personal favorites is Bill Watterson‘s Calvin and Hobbes collection. Stupendous.

It sure is a difficult task to make someone smile. But it ain’t impossible. All you need (apart from brains) is a good sense of humor and an eye for details.

(Post by Sanjana Kapoor)

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The Long And Short Of It

Walk into a book store and you are sure to find a heap of novels lined up meticulously. But how many are anthologies compared to the full length novels? Hardly a few!

I really can’t say what I like reading more – short stories or a full length novel. Though both have equal, if not less, rewards, they suffer their downfalls too.


My love for short stories began (and somewhat ended) during the school days, where in our “Gul Mohar Reader” had simple short stories that, at least I, used to end up reading even before school started for the particular term.  Stories by O.HenryRoald DahlErnest HemingwayGraham Greene, R. K. NarayanMark TwainLeo Tolstoy,Issac AsimovRuskin Bond, and so many other authors always interested me.
 But that affair lasted a short while. Once out of school, it got somewhat difficult to  track a good collection of short stories. Well, I must confess, I really did not try as hard, due to increasing academic pressures. But whenever I could, I would ask around for anthologies rather than novels.
It’s just that short stories are much easier to interpret, digest, and ponder upon. And the beauty lies in the fact that they could be read easily in one sitting. The restless soul that I am, I tend to get a little impatient reading a really long novel. I jump to a lot of conclusions before reaching the climax. Which in a way is good if the novel is exciting. But it just breaks my heart to see shoddy endings that leave me disappointed.

Also, short stories can be read (and re-read) anytime – while traveling to work, (sometimes at work), while enjoying a relaxed afternoon at home in a comfortable bean-bag, or any week night when sweet slumber deserts you.
Another thing about short stories is that you can pick up any story that you wish to read, without having to worry about the sequence. (Oh, but my OCD to follow a sequence is something I can’t help.)

There is a certain connectivity that is established in the very first paragrah usually, (if it is a well written short story) that takes you through the entire life of the character within those few pages. It’s just that the conectivity has to be established. If it clicks, you know you’re going to like it.

Let me not be completely biased. We cannot rule out the fact that in some anthologies not all stories capture your heart. Some do leave you disappointed. But the pain is bearable, as against spending time and getting involved with a lengthy novel only to be disappointed towards the climax. The effort is futile.

Coming to the writing styles, I must say, both are equally hard.
A well defined beginning, a progressive plot and a convincing climax make up for a well structured story. Be it a short one or a mighty novel.

Where a novel gives you the freedom to elaborate and dive in to the depths of a scene and describe even the sharpness of a harmless pin, a short story needs to deliver the same feeling in a few crisp sentences (or words). Come to think of it, short story writing is more of a challenge. It has the constraints of time and space and words and characters. In those few pages, you have to engage the reader so much that (s)he understands the plot, relates and connects with the characters, and doesn’t lose interest till the last word. That’s when a short story is truly acknowledged.
A novel gives the writer the levy of spinning a beautiful and lavish yarn that the reader is comfortable reading for a few pages before proceeding to the next scene.

Loosely structured sentences, clumsy dialogues, weak descriptions not only repulse the reader but also the publisher. Which brings me to one of the very important points – finding a publisher.
No doubt you can self-publish your work. But it would not gain as much visibility in the market. Social networking sites might help you to a certain extent. But that’s all. Promotions on a few blogging sites, sharing it with friends, family and acquaintances and maybe a few random stumblers is all you’d be able to gather. If you do look at the commercial aspect, finding a good publisher would become one of the priorities.

No doubt, India still has a long way to go when it comes to publishing a short story collection or an anthology. For some reason, publishers prefer full length novels over short stories.
It is only recently that new publishers like Grey Oaks Publications are coming out with continuous series of anthologies, giving budding writers a fair chance. Bigger and renowned players likePenguin, Rupa, Cedar, etc. have opened up more with bigger brands organizing short story competitions that publish deserving stories. Recent offerings that I’ve really appreciated include Urban ShotsDown The RoadSome Of The Whole, etc.

Reading the works of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, and other seasoned authors raise your expectations, no doubt, with the kind of presentation, plot and ideation they offered. Their style is what set them apart. And looking for such gratification today, I confess, is a bit difficult. It is a task. A tough one. Budding authors most give it an honest try, and we readers must appreciate the efforts.

Now, talking about full length novels, they aren’t all that easy either. Definitely more time consuming and involving. The plot needs to be reasonable enough to keep the reader hooked till the last page. A couple of main characters with a few minor characters; a main plot with sub-plots around it; ample amount of research; immense effort and patience; all sum up the process of a decent full length novel writing.
Also, length and quality are not synonyms. Quite a few times, an author, in the zeal to increase the word count ends up sacrificing the structure and quality of the plot.

Though getting a publisher is comparatively easy; and signing off as an author of a novel is more appealing than a short story writer, it is the quality that makes a novel a best seller.

Given a choice, I’d pick up a collection of short stories over a novel. To read as well as to write.

What about you- a short story collection or a full length novel?

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Keep Reading

A man is known by the company he keeps. And a book is any day good company. It reveals more about your character. It reflects your tastes, your desires, your perspectives, and a bit of the real you.

Books have a deeper impact on your mind and heart. They become a characteristic trait.
Research shows that most of the successful people, read. And read books that broaden their perspective and their knowledge and their thought process. They have more information; learn from other people’s experience; and are better at evaluating and making decisions.
We all know that reading is to mind what exercise is to body. In today’s age of technological and psychological advancement, our minds do need to open up more. And a book is said to communicate with us on deeper levels than any human being can. It speaks to our mind and to our heart. Directly.
A book can make you visit lands that you’ve seen before; peep into the depths of history; learn from the greatest minds; ponder over issues that you never paid heed to before; and bring about thoughts that would address real problems and shape the world around you. The levels of connect could be different, but the purpose is simple. To make you better.

You may be a funny man, and reading the works of Allen Smith, Douglas Adams, etc. help you hone your skills and acquire higher levels of humor. Of late, Kartik Iyengar’s Horn Ok Please has been creating waves. And amongst the experienced ones, Abhijit Bhaduri’s works are highly recommended.

If you possess “creative imagination” you end up reading more of J.K. Rowling, David Eddings, Neil Gaiman, Roger Zelazny, Terry Pratchett, C.S. Lewis, and our very own Samit Basu etc., and you build your own fantasy world, bringing out improvised characters that have a trait of your personality.

If you possess good communication skills; have a knack to sync practicality and emotional thoughts with the ability to lead, works of Yogesh Chabria, Shiv Khera and Deepak Chopra would interest you more and help you develop interpersonal skills to reach your goal as ‘motivational speaker’.
Yogesh stresses that wealth without peace of mind, fun, and happiness is useless. He says that without Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is impossible to get.
Deepak Chopra, an Indian public speaker, and writer on Ayurveda, spirituality and mind-body medicine, began his career as an endocrinologist and later shifted his focus to alternative medicine. One of his main messages is that by ridding oneself of negative emotions and developing intuition by listening to signals from the body, health can be improved.
Shiv Khera, an Indian motivational speaker, author of self-help books, business consultant, activist and politician, came out with his first book in 1998. You Can Win introduced his trademark quote, “Winners don’t do different things, they do things differently.” The focus of the book was on achieving success through personal growth and positive attitude.

There are stacks and piles of books of literary value – from classics to literature to poetry to modern day “metro reads”; from sci-fi to chick-lit to recipe books; the options are aplenty and the choices varied.

FromShakespeare to Charles Dickens to William Wordsworth to Chetan Bhagat to Ahmed Faiyaz and the whole new generation of writers who do churn out readable material.
So my point is, read what you really like. Your mind retains things that you like and eventually reflects someway in your personality. It makes you a better person. A learned one too.
There was a time when people worried about reading too much. And today, too little.

In this age where our meals are supersized and books abridged, I wonder where exactly we are headed. Any guesses?

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