Friday, October 9, 2009

Reading: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Whenever I finish any book, I open my books cupboard and take a long, long time to decide which one to pick up next. As I say, reading a book is always a unique experience, so it totally depends what can of mood I am in.

I picked up this book because first of all it is quite thin. Considering the fact that I don’t get too much time everyday, and keep reading the same book sometimes for the entire week. So, I thought I should read a short one.

I had bought this book online primarily because I have read so much about it, and there has also been a film with Audrey Hepburn. So, there you go.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review: The Cradle Snatcher by Tess Stimson

Why I picked up this book?
This was one of the recommendations by Smita. I just wanted to buy a couple of books and I was looking for something which is in the genre of chiklit or quick-read or whatever. I liked the review and ordered for it.

What’s the book about?
The book is about Clare Elias, her husband Marc and their nanny. Clare, a successful businesswoman, planned everything perfectly in her life; she even ‘plans’ the birth of her children. But when the kids actually come into her world, it turns upside down, creating a havoc which Clare never expected. She never thought managing two tiny-tots would be such a difficult job. Reluctantly, she hires a nanny.
It is a fairly engaging story about Clare's desperation to go back to her work, her frustration on not being able to handle her own kids, unexpected troubles in marriage and much, much more. At the same time, the story is also about Jenna, her nanny, their evolving relationship and Jenna's own life and troubles.
Before I started the book, I thought there would be the usual angle of nanny trying to take the place of the wife. But this turns out to be different.
I liked the way in which the author lets us into the perspectives of all the main characters. There are chapters dedicated to each character alternatively so that the reader knows why that character behaved in the way he / she did.
It is quite an interesting read. There’s romance, jealousy, heart-breaks, misunderstandings, issues faced by women pertaining to motherhood, work after having babies, marriage, etc.

My verdict
Again it would mostly appeal to women. Though not really a chicklit but it is quite woman-centered in its approach. I would give it 8 out of 10. I finished it in 3 days again.

Image credit: Amazon

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

After reading a lot about Mahabharata, Mughals and some serious fiction as well, I picked up "Remember Me?" because I wanted to read a quick one this time and something light. Knowing Sophie Kinsella, I was pretty sure I would be able to finish it off quickly. And yes, I did complete it in 3 days straight (and those were weekdays!).

Why I picked up this book?
  • Because I have read all of Sophie Kinsella's books and find them absolutely hilarious
  • Because this was the only book, apart from the latest "Twenties Girl" that I had not read
  • Sophie is the queen of chicklit
What’s the book about?
The book has an interesting plot wherein Lexi Smart wakes upto a perfect life – a perfect body, perfect teeth and a perfect husband. Lexi meets with an accident in her Mercedes, and when she wakes up in the hospital, three years of her life are erased from her memory and she goes back to the day when she had a fall, 3 years back, on the street. So she does not remember anything that happens to her after that. From here starts Lexi’s journey of discovering her last 3 years and her life, because she does not identify with the new Lexi at all.

How is the book?
Though a fat book, it is really a fast-paced one. You don’t get bored. You would want to keep moving. Though it does drag at some places, but you still want to move on to know how Lexi puts together bits and pieces.
There are some places where you do feel certain things difficult to digest, but you let it pass.

My verdict
I will give it 8 out of 10. It is a good pick for all chicklit lovers. May be it is not quite in the league of "Confessions of a Shopaholic" but the plot is quite engaging. Sophie Kinsella's first book was truly outstanding and none of her other books really ever matched upto the novelty of that. I think it happens with all the writers because the first books are generally the most passionate ones. After that you just keep on trying to match the brilliance of your first book.

Image source: Amazon


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Books on my shelf ;-)

This month I have gone super-crazy. I have bought books as if there is no tomorrow. But anyways, I did manage to grab some good ones.

  • Remember Me? By Sophie Kinsella (Landmark)
  • The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (only book which I actually bought on Sale at Landmark; rest all ended up buying in usual price)
  • Tamas by Bhishm Sahani (Landmark)
  • Divya by Yashpal (Landmark)
  • The Strike by Anand Mahadevan (Landmark)
  • In the Country of Deceit by Shashi Deshpande (one of my favourite authors; Landmark))
  • 3, Zakia Mansion by Gouri Dange (from Crossword Sale)

That's about it!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reading: The Waiting Room by Anupa Mehta

Right now I am reading "The Waiting Room" by Anupa Mehta. Considering the limited time I have everyday, I picked up this rather thin book, so that I can complete it in 1-2 days. It gets frustrating to go on reading same book for weeks. It just kills the joy of reading completely.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

The vibrant and attractive cover of this book and a good review in one of the magazines, made me decide that I surely wanted to check out this book. It also helped that one of my friends had bought it by chance.

Mr Ali is the main protagonist. After retirement, both he and his wife feels that rather than whiling away his time and interfering in the matters of household, opening a marriage bureau could be a great way to keep oneself engaged. A Marriage Bureau appeared to be a good business option because it hardly requires any investment and does not need too much of physical work or running around either. This book is a slow read. You can read it at your pace because for a long, long time there is no gripping story. The book is based in Vishakhapatnam and paints a beautiful picture of the city and the life there. This book is a clear winner in illustrating the sights and sounds of Vizag or for any small Indian city quite beautifully. More than the story, what stands out is the writer’s eye for detail and the pain he has taken to re-create the place and its life through his masterful words. When I read about this book, what caught my attention was the “marriage bureau” angle. It sounded like a very interesting background for any story. It can present an opportunity to explore the interesting facets of how an Indian marriage takes place.

There is a plethora of characters that walk in and out of the story, and eventually we are led to the story of Aruna, Mr Ali’s assistant, and her marriage. But frankly, there’s no “once upon a time” or “…and then one day” moment. I kept waiting for the “real” story but the characters come and go and they do not become key characters of this book.

The book does not work for me atleast; I don’t like fiction that does not tell a story. I will give it 5.5 or maximum 6 out of 10 only for the writer’s efforts in understanding the nuances of ‘true’ India and crafting the daily life in absolute detail – what with the troubles of a lower class house maid, to the dynamics of a retired couple, to the trials of a lower middle class young girl and the even the ordinariness of daily life in a quaint Indian city. It is also interesting to see the mirror of a person’s prejudices and expectations in the partner one is looking at.

It is not a page-turner but it keeps you interested in a different kind of charm that spells ‘India’. May be you can try this book when you have read a couple of heavy duty books and want a slow read. 

Image credit: Amazon

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Books on my shelf

I buy books practically every week. So, not having bought any book for a couple of days, I was itching to get some. But can’t just pick up anything, so I visited Smita’s Blog and hunted for my kind of books. Right now, after having read serious stuff like about Mahabharata and Mughal dynasty, I wanted to read some god chiklit or anything refreshingly different.

I finally zeroed in on the following books:

  • The Waiting Room by Anupa Mehta
  • Time Stops at Shamli by Ruskin Bond (can you believe it, I have never read a Ruskin Bond!)
  • The Cradle Snatcher by Tim Stimson
  • Faking it by Amrita Chowdhury

I have already lined up the following books for my next binge:

  • Remember Me? By Sophie Kinsella (‘Twenties Girl’ not available yet)
  • Dreams Die Young by C.V.Murali
  • Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reading: Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

I first came across this book in one of the magazines, and it definitely aroused curiosity. As luck would have it, one of my friends picked it up. I have just started it, so review will come later but the beginning had that warm, familiar feeling of everything Indian. That is the best thing about Indian English fiction, you totally relate to it - no pan-cakes, no divorces at the drop of the hat, no frivolous dating!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

for the PEOPLE

Few months back, I chanced upon PEOPLE magazine. I was completely bowled over by it. In fact, I would go on to say that PEOPLE is the best celebrity magazine in India right now. It does not have trashy celebrity gossip, and unnecessary interviews on crazy hookups that are purely for publicity stunts. All the film magazines have become trashy right now, they do not have any content. Same filmstars, same questions. How much can one read about Kareena Kapoor and Katrina Kaif really. Every time they have a release, they are back on Covers. Agh!
But PEOPLE has exclusive pics, fashion and celebrities from all walks of life. It is surely interesting.
I wanted to subscribe, but the Offer was not that lucrative. My local vendor gave me much better offer and I sort of subscribed it. If you are into celebrity magazines, this is the best on stands. Go Grab it!
People magazine can be subscribed from this link.
Image courtesy:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Books on my Shelf!

While reading 'The Feast of Roses', I got incredibly interested in reading more about the Mughal era in general and women in particular. Nurjahan's story was fascinating; and her ambition to possess the power to rule the kingdom, considered preposterous at that time, was in fact very courageous for a lady.

So, a little research, led me to 2 books:

The Twentieth Wife

This book is also by Indu Sundaresan and deals with Nurjahan’s life before marrying Jahangir. I have read good reviews about this book too. And after having read 'The Feast of Roses' myself, I can vouch for Indu Sundaresan. I liked her snese of detailing and making every character come alive. Best deal at Indiaplaza for Rs 287 with some shipping charges if this is the only book you are buying.

Taj: A Story Of Mughal India: A Story Of Mughal India

A book on one of the most remarkable architectures of India, not about the building but the story behind building it. It is written by Timeri N. Murari. Best Deal at Flipkart for Rs 275 with free shipping.

I’m itching to complete both at the earliest and will be back for the reviews for sure.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Feast of Roses by Indu Sundaresan

Knowing the book-freak I am, one of my friends recommended this book to me. At that time, I had lots of books ordered or on the verge of ordering, so I just made a note and saved the icon of the book (means picture of the cover page for posterity). 

Anyways, I have completed this book in a record 3 weeks. Yup, it is a record of highest time taken to read the book. It has nothing to do with the attention-grabbing quotient of the book.

The book is about Emperor Jahangir’s ‘Twentieth Wife’ Noorjahan. Noorjahan is one of the most distinguished and illustrious of Mughal women. During those days, women had very little role in public life but Noorjahan dreams of such power – unheard of and unprecedented for any women - and accomplishes her goal. Noorjahan comes across as a shrewd, ambitious and gutsy woman who makes a lot of enemies along the way but no friends.

This intriguing and fascinating story of Noorjahan holds quite a few revelations (atleast for me):
  • Noorjahan was actually the 20th wife of the emperor
  • She got married to Jahangir when she was 34 years old – quite old for the years of yore
  • Jahangir was Noorjahan’s second husband. She was married earlier to someone else earlier and had a daughter from her first marriage
  • Shahjahan (prince Khurram) was not Noorjahan’s son
  • Shahjahan’s wife Mumtaz Mahal was Noorjahan’s niece and Noorjahan was instrumental in getting her niece married to Prince Khurram, who was later known as Shahjahan
  • Noorjahan’s real name was Mehrunnisa
  • In her pursuit of power, possessing the title of ‘Begam Padshah’ and authority to command the kingdom, Noorjahan makes and breaks several collaborations within the palace – with different sons of Jahangir in different times since she did not have a son of her own.
I think I have already blurted out half the book. But in any case, this book is not a thriller. It is the quest of a woman to become the most powerful lady of the kingdom.

The stories surrounding Mughal princesses are intriguing. We have often heard the love stories of Jahangir-Noorjahan and Shahjahan –Mumtaz Mahal. There is a prequel to the book called “The Twentieth Wife”. 

‘The Feast of Roses’ starts from the time when Noorjahan is already the wife of Jahangir. It is also a glimpse into the inner dynamics of harems (harem = living quarters reserved for wives and concubines and female relatives in a Muslim household) of kingdoms – how a king used to have several queens (mostly to form alliances), and were also allowed to have several concubines and slave girls; how women could just be spectators of court proceeding, never the participants and how there was a hierarchy inside the harems.

This book is an captivating story of how Noorjahan dreams and gets the role much powerful than any Mughal queen had ever dreamt of. I absolutely loved this book, more so because the narrative was quite illustrative – the prevalent social norms and the mannerisms. Must read!

P.S. It also has a very user-friendly family tree at the beginning for people like me who keep forgetting who was whose wife and who was whose son!

And by the way, my "The Twentieth Wife" is already on the way from India Plaza, and I have also bought this book called "Taj: A Story of Mughal India By Timeri N. Murari"

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A very Good Offer for All Book Lovers

I came across this offer while going through my most preferred site for book-shopping – Indiaplaza. They have an offer called Indiplaza Book Club Membership Offer. For all the people who buy a lot of books throughout the year, it is a boon. Read all the details here.

My take on this is:
- You buy this Membership for Rs 500 and immediately when the Membership is activated, you get a free voucher worth Rs 500 for buying books. So you are not really paying anything for this Membership.
- Through this, you will get assured 25% discount on all the books throughout one year.
- My extensive research has shown me that most of the books are cheapest on Indiaplaza despite paying the shipping for the first book.

I have already taken the Membership and today I start my first purchase of free books worth Rs 500.

It can’t get better than this!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Good Books

Some books which I am itching to Own:

The Mahabharata: A Modern Rendering, Vol 1 (Paperback) by Ramesh Menon (Author)

Noorjahan, empress of Mughal India by by Ellison Banks

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Rethinking the Mahabharata by Alf Hiltebeitel

Next Door stories by Jahnavi Barua

The Immortals by Amit Chaudhari

Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The Mahabharata by Meera Uberoi

The women of the Mahabharata by Badrinath Chaturvedi

Radheya (Hindi): Period Novel on Mahabharata's Karna by Ranjit Desai

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

Reading Lolita In Tehran by Azar Nafisi

The Wet Nurse by Mahasweta Devi

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

Dreams Die Young By C.V. Murali

Why I assassinated Mahatma Gandhi

Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

A Princess Remembers: The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

‘The Kite Runner’ is a fabulous book and also a wonderful movie.
I read the book about 3 years back. I was member of this library from where you could borrow a couple of books, read and then return for some other books. When I read the back cover, I found it intriguing. So, I just picked it up.

It was a ‘difficult’ book to read – not in language or expression but in content, in the emotions that it evoked. It left me with a heavy heart. It was like Shashi Deshpande’s books. When you are done, you would feel as if you have lived the book. Just like in Deshpande’s books, the feelings are described so clearly that you end up living those yourself; and eventually you end up ‘living’ the book. So, when the book gets over, you feel empty for sometime.

The basic plot is that of two friends - Amir and Hassan but beyond the surface, this book addresses a lot of political, sociological and emotional issues. Amir’s dad is a rich guy and Hassan’s father works at Amir’s home. But there is deep friendship between the two. Hassan – from supposedly a low caste - is so devoted to Amir that he would do anything for his sake. The book is about how he puts himself at stake and faces deep humiliation, for Amir. 

Amir is not so brave. He carries the guilt of knowing what Hassan goes through and not doing anything about it. 

Both get separated due to political turmoil and family situations, but eventually Amir risks his life to save Hassan’s son and pays the dues of friendship, at the end.
Don’t want to be a spoiler, so no matter how much I want to write the story here, I would control myself.

The movie was beautiful. There is an effortless translation of book into the movie. I could not stop myself from crying for Hassan and feeling deep sense of injustice in knowing that he only did the right thing, yet he lost his life. 

The movie also reminded how an Afghan used to be reminiscent of “Kabulliwalah” – the big-hearted pathan; unlike today, where people look at an Afghan with suspicion. It is also sad to look at the deteriorated condition of life there, abject injustice in the name of religion. When the world is progressing toward growth and development, Talibans support regressive culture and clearly favour stone age! It is even difficult to imagine life for them. 

Watch the movie (and read the book) for its sensitivity and beautiful portrayal of human emotions and friendship. It is every bit worth it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reading: The Feast of Roses by Indu Sundaresan

I read a couple of books after Mahabharata but never got on to reviewing any of those. Primarily, because I am ecstatic of being able to buy so many of the rare books like 'Second Turn' for example. I have started this book recently and so far it is going great. The book is a sequel to "the Twentieth Wife" and both the books are on Mehrunissa, more popularly known as Noorjahan.

This book led me to research on books about Indian Princesses. I also came across a book called 'Jahanara: Princess of Princesses', which is also supposed to be a good one.

I will surely review "the Feast of Roses" but I will have to re-visit all the books that I read on Mahabharat to talk about why I liked them. So, watch the space!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reading: Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari

I have been reading this book, since couple of days now. It is supposed to be the basic translation of original Mahabharata, with a lot of teachings and learnings. It also raises a lot of questions, since I have read other books on Mahabharata as well; so some incidents do not match. I will post a review in a couple of days, and by the way, I have been successful in getting 2 more books - "After Kurukshetra' and 'And now, let me sleep'. I have also been able to locate 'Second Turn' and 'Mrityunjaya'.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Yajnaseni by Pratibha Ray

I finished reading ‘Yajnaseni’ by Pratibha Ray, sometime back. I even scribbled some thoughts immediately after finishing the book. ‘Yajnaseni’ is an attempt by acclaimed writer Pratibha Ray, to understand the psyche of Draupadi who has ever been gibed as a woman with many husbands or who has been always referred to in a derogatory sense.

Simply put, ‘Yajnaseni’ is ‘Mahabharata re-told in the words of Draupadi’. Most of us know the basic story of Mahabharata, so there is no revelation as such; but there are enough re-interpretations of the events, which will hold your interest till the end. 

The story begins from the end - it starts from the last journey of Pandavas and Draupadi in the Himalayas. While walking on the rough terrain, she falls down and she is shocked at the callousness of her husbands, none of whom turns back to help her. She is aghast at the treatment meted out to her. Yudhishthir accuses her of loving Arjun more than her other husbands.

‘Yajnaseni’ has been presented as a letter by Draupadi to her sakha, Krishnaa, who was always her closest. She narrates the entire story chronologically; the difficult situations she faced; the turmoils, the insults hurled at her every now and then. She asks Krishna, where was she wrong.

It is interesting to read about her spiritual relationship with Krishna and a strange interplay of attraction and insult between Karna and Draupadi; besides of course her love for Arjuna. When her father tells her that it is only Krishna who could be a suitable match for the perfect woman Krishnaa, she starts dreaming about him; but when Krishna tells her that Arjuna is actually the perfect man for her, she becomes totally devoted to Arjuna. The book tells us, how she had already dedicated herself to Arjuna, much before he won her in the Swayamvar (which anyways could not have been won by anyone else, except Karna). When Arjuna was taking her to his mother, those moments she considers as the most beautiful time of her life, because after that her life changed forever as the wife of five husbands.

Draupadi comes across as an extremely learned and almost super-human in her qualities. Draupadi has always been insinuated as the woman because of whom the battle of Kurukshetra took place, but actually it was she who had to bear the consequences of the actions of her husbands on several occasions.  The game of dice is one such example, where even after getting insulted in front of elders and her husbands; she wins them back by her wisdom.

It is absolutely must-read for any enthusiast of – if I might say - the greatest epic of all times, Mahabharata. I have already done quite some research and found that actually there is lots of good literature on the subject, floating around. I’m listing all the books I know of, below:

1. Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari – I’m reading it right now (it is the basis of most of the other books) > Buy from Crossword @ Rs 100
2. Yajnaseni by Pratibha Ray (original in Oriya) – already read > Buy from Rediff Books @ Rs 292 
3. Yuganta by Irawati Karve – already read > Buy from Rediff Books @ Rs 124
4. And Now Let Me Sleep by P.K. Balakrishnan – have ordered for it > Buy from A1Books India @ Rs 100
5. After Kurukshetra by Mahasweta Devi – have ordered for it > Buy from Indiaplaza @ Rs 100
6. Mrityunjaya, the death conqueror: The story of Karna by Sivaji Savanta (original in Marathi) – not able to get English version, will have to go for Hindi > Buy from A1Books India @ Rs 400
7. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni – bought recently > Buy from Indiaplaza @ Rs 411
8. The cult of Draupadi Vol I by Alf Hiltebeitel > Buy from A1 Books India @ Rs 180
9. The cult of Draupadi Vol II by Alf Hiltebeitel 
10. The Second Turn by M.T.Vasudevan Nair (original in Malyalam) – not able to find
12. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor – got it > Buy from Indiaplaza @ Rs 245
15. The book of Yudhishthir

It is sad that most of the above have gone ‘out-of-print’. But, of course, no matter what I’m definitely going to hunt those down. It will be interesting to read so many versions of Mahabharata.