Friday, 28 November 2014

Brajesh's Review : Mr Mercedes

Mr Mercedes is a Stephen King master-class.

We know the murderer and the crime fairly early in the book, the suspense is not who he is, or how he did it. It is his twisted , addictively evil, yet strangely believable motivation and mind-set hurling us into his next plot.

The characters of the murderer and retired police officer are so eerily similar yet contrasting. If I have read a page turner in 2014, this is the one.

I knew King was a master of horror, but in this book he made me realize that he is also the god of crime and drama. The sheer believability of situations and ordinariness of the settings leave the reader with a newer, scarier observational approach to his surroundings. I can’t wait to pick up the next King crime-drama offering.

Rating : 4 / 5

Friday, 21 November 2014

Brajesh's Review : Raja Ravi Varma - Oleographs

This is a collection of Raja Ravi Verma’s lovely Oleographs, which we picked up at the Baroda Museum’s shop. For a small sum of 500 INR, we now have a collection of Ravi Verma’s on which one can spend hours reflecting and picking up nuances of some fairly well known paintings from Indian mythology.

The pick of the collection for me were from the not so popular paintings of Shiva with moustache, Ganesh with his two wives and a lovely rendition of Saraswati. Enjoy a sneak-peak of the collection in the next picture

Rating : (Unrated)

This particular collection was available at the Laxmi Vilas Palace at Baroda and are prints of the Palace Collection. I'm not sure if it is available anywhere other than at this location. However, there are a few other books on this painter that can be easily bought and there are some links below.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Brajesh's Review : One Hundred Days. Her Quest, My Cure

"One Hundred Days. Her Quest, My Cure" by Shweta Modgil is a novel of self-discovery. A story of believing in oneself. A story of pursuing ones dream against societal pressures and disapproval.

The story is simple and the cast is relatable, The narrative is where the book begins to fall apart. Simplicity is both the strength and weakness of this book. This is Shweta’s first book and I am sure the author will only grow further in strength from here.

Set against the modern urban madness, the protagonist finds the inspirations during her various escapes from the cityscape. Either on a trip to the hills or in a conversation with a brother settled US.

For me the resolution of conflict was quite predictable but the situations were constructed in a sweet and simple manner.

Rating : 2.5 / 5

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Brajesh's Review : Brand Vinci - Decoding Facets of Branding

(2.0/5.0) I had a couple of hours to kill at Mumbai Airport and "Brand Vinci - Decoding Facets of Branding" by Pavan Padaki, was under the best seller section of the book-shop. I am still wondering who decided to put it there.

It is a thin book of around 80 pages with an attractive cover. Unfortunately the only think good about the book were the sketches on graphic pages.

The content was quite useless and it took me less than 30 minutes to finish the book, in which the author tries to explain the basics of brand management through its 5 legs of purpose, perspective, positioning, properties and protocol. Unfortunately the brand model as well accompanying examples of the five legs are both poor in quality and give no insight into brand management.

Avoid this book, but if you have 5 minutes to spare, you can flip through the 5 pages of graphic art in the book at any book-shop. To ensure you don’t waste your time on this book, I have attached a collage of these 5 pages for you.

Rating : 2 / 5

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Brajesh's Review : The Innocent

With Lee Child and Jack Reacher dominating my thriller fiction appetite, I had virtually forgotten how good a thriller writer David Baldacci is.

In "The Innocent" he introduces us to Robie the US Government undercover assassin, making hits across the globe to keep the world a safe place. Before one knows it, from being the hunter, Robie turns into the hunted.

However one never realizes this shift in power till about the last quarter of the book. The pace is supersonic as usual, characters strong and plot believable. The book spans from Edinburgh to Middle East before returning to US.

All along the read, the plot kept on expanding and I feared how it would all come-together. Baldacci does the closing, in an amazingly simple yet comprehensive manner, and I couldn’t think of even one lose thread left hanging. This for me is the real strength of this book.

I am happy to have rediscovered Baldacci, as I was coming to the end of my Lee Child journey with only one book left to read, not counting the latest “Personal” which arrived only yesterday.

Rating : 4 / 5

Monday, 20 October 2014

Kim & Brajesh's Review : The Novel Cure - An A-Z of Literary Remedies

Kim's Review :

The minute I saw "The Novel cure - an A-Z of Literary Remedies" by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin up for pre-order on flipkart, I just ordered it immediately. It seemed like something right up our alley. And when it arrived on 21st August, I dove into it. In fact, Brajesh and I were fighting over the book, since he was home when it arrived.

I've been dipping into it on & off since that day. Its not a book that can be read cover-to-cover, but its meant to be savoured one topic at a time, referred to often and enjoyed whenever you are in the mood for a recommendation.

Its written by 2 Bibliotherapists, like a medical handbook, but the remedies are books. Ailments are wide ranging from fear of fatherhood to fear of dinner parties, loneliness to selfishness, feeling like an idiot to bad manners and serious ones like being widowed to falling off the wagon.

They have a list of Reading ailments too - which is not just apt but also humorously written - ailments include compulsive book buying, fear of finishing a good book / series, too many children requiring attention, reading induced loneliness etc. We identified with so many of those illnesses and found some valuable tips too.

I have to recommend it to every reader, because I'm sure each one of you will love it.

The only drawback of this book : its adding more titles to my ever growing bedside books "to be read"

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Brajesh's Review :

If you are a book lover, you MUST have this book as a part of your library. A most unusual book , which I am delighted to have discovered.

First the facts, prior to this book I was unaware of “Bibliotherapy” as a concept. As I discovered, it is an expressive therapy which uses ones relationship with the written word as a cure.

This book is a Bible of bibliotheraphy, it provides a literary cure to all ailments ranging from physical problems like “headache & hiccups” to psychological issues like “pessimism & sadness”. It addresses the funny problems like “missing your flight & public urinating” while also addressing the cure of serious issues like “ageing parents & alcoholism”. So no matter what your problem is this Bible will suggest a literary cure for the same.

Obviously this is a book which can never truly be read, but without having this in your library, you can't really call yourself a book lover.

A good way to familiarize oneself with this book , is to flip through the pages while reading the highlighted pages listing the common “Reading Ailments” like “fear of finishing” and “seduction of new books” or the most common one for book lovers “overwhelmed by number of books in your house”.

While going over these, also read the book lists of 10, sprinkled throughout. To sample a few consider “the 10 best novellas” or “the ten best shocking novels” or my favorite, “the ten best novels for seemingly well read”.

At INR 595/- this is a perfect gift and my recommendation for the “best value for money book” of 2014. Go order now at flipkart or

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Brajesh's Review : Happiness Is . . .

Happiness Is. . . by Ralph Lazar & Lisa Swerling, lists out 500 things to be happy about.

In an increasingly complex world, this simple approach to happiness is both refreshing and relevant. The book list 500 everyday reasons to be happy about through simple sketches.

I can assure you that while reading this book, you will have a perpetual smile pasted on your face and will also burst out laughing when you find a happiness that you relate to. The book is a collection of illustrations, originally featured on the “The Happy Page” on Facebook.

This page invites you to submit your own reasons to be happy about (through and based on reader suggestions, the husband wife duo of Ralph and Liza illustrate your idea.

What an amazing concept to spread “happiness of small things” in an increasingly intolerant and paranoid world.

I obviously have subscribed to the feed of the page and would recommend you to do so as well. On doing a quick online search I figured out that Ralph and Liza are accomplished and well established cartoonists, and the book shows the power of their craft.

This is a book not to be read and kept aside, but savored and best kept in your office to be flipped over many times a day, as boost of energy.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books

We have always loved to read printed books as opposed to reading e-books on a computer / laptop / reader or hand held device. I have occasionally read Vampire Fiction on the laptop, just because it is a guilty pleasure and something I will read only once for the joy of it, rather than a book that I want to treasure.

Other than those occasional e-books and a few audio books that I download for long journeys alone, I much prefer to hold a book in my hand, I love the feeling of turning a page and going back using more than just the swipe of a finger. It just feels so much more comfortable and natural to me.

Brajesh too is the same. He may occasionally download a management book in an e-form, just to be able to skim through it. But if he really likes what he reads, then he will buy the book in hard copy and read it cover to cover.

At times, we felt, that we were unnecessarily postponing the future of reading and were needlessly carrying kilos of books on minimal baggage allowance, but this article that was recently published, has given us a huge sense of satisfaction that maybe, we aren't just old-fashioned, but reading the way, nature developed us to.

From :

It's no secret that reading is good for you. Just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, and numerous studies have shown that reading keeps your brain functioning effectively as you age. One study even found that elderly individuals who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's than their peers. But not all forms of reading are created equal.

The debate between paper books and e-readers has been vicious since the first Kindle came out in 2007. Most arguments have been about the sentimental versus the practical, between people who prefer how paper pages feel in their hands and people who argue for the practicality of e-readers. But now science has weighed in, and the studies are on the side of paper books.

Reading in print helps with comprehension.

A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback. Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway's Stavanger University concluded that "the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does."

Our brains were not designed for reading, but have adapted and created new circuits to understand letters and texts. The brain reads by constructing a mental representation of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page.

The tactile experience of a book aids this process, from the thickness of the pages in your hands as you progress through the story to the placement of a word on the page. Mangen hypothesizes that the difference for Kindle readers "might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you're reading."

While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader's serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one's sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text.

Reading long sentences without links is a skill you need — but can lose if you don't practice.

Reading long, literary sentences sans links and distractions is actually a serious skill that you lose if you don't use it. Before the Internet, the brain read in a linear fashion, taking advantage of sensory details to remember where key information was in the book by layout.

As we increasingly read on screens, our reading habits have adapted to skim text rather than really absorb the meaning. A 2006 study found that people read on screens in an "F" pattern, reading the entire top line but then only scanning through the text along the left side of the page. This sort of nonlinear reading reduces comprehension and actually makes it more difficult to focus the next time you sit down with a longer piece of text.

Tufts University neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf worries that "the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing." Individuals are increasingly finding it difficult to sit down and immerse themselves in a novel. As a result, some researchers and literature-lovers have started a "slow reading" movement, as a way to counteract their difficulty making it through a book.

Reading in a slow, focused, undistracted way is good for your brain.

Slow-reading advocates recommend at least 30 to 45 minutes of daily reading away from the distractions of modern technology. By doing so, the brain can reengage with linear reading. The benefits of making slow reading a regular habit are numerous, reducing stress and improving your ability to concentrate.

Regular reading also increases empathy, especially when reading a print book. One study discovered that individuals who read an upsetting short story on an iPad were less empathetic and experienced less transportation and immersion than those who read on paper.

Reading an old-fashioned novel is also linked to improving sleep. When many of us spend our days in front of screens, it can be hard to signal to our body that it's time to sleep. By reading a paper book about an hour before bed, your brain enters a new zone, distinct from that enacted by reading on an e-reader.

Three-quarters of Americans 18 and older report reading at least one book in the past year, a number which has fallen, and e-books currently make up between 15 to 20% of all book sales. In this increasingly Twitter- and TV-centric world, it's the regular readers, the ones who take a break from technology to pick up a paper book, who have a serious advantage on the rest of us.

Read the Entire Article at : and follow the hyperlinks there, to the Scientific Research that is the basis for this article.

Mum's Review : Natural Kingdoms – Healing with Homeopathy

Mum has been treating most of the family with Homeopathy and other Natural / Alternative Remedies, for over 35 years. She started when I was a kid and used to throw up or react violently to any allopathic medication (mum also says that our cat throwing up her worm tablets on me, is some kind of Karmic Justice).  Soo whenever I find a new book on Homeopathy in the market, which I think may interest her, I send her a copy.

When I was recently offered Dr Rajan Sankaran's - Natural Kingdoms – Healing with Homeopathy for review, I sent it to my mum as she is much more qualified than me to review a book on this subject. Below is mum's review in her own words.

Dr Rajan Sankaran's - has named his method of diagnosis as the sensation method. It is based on his concept that an individual’s perception of stress is shaped by an inner pattern, or song, which is connected to one of the three kingdoms in nature — animal, plant or mineral. Identifying this fundamental connection enables homeopaths to cure ailments at their root, even in the case of individuals who find themselves trapped in repetitive patterns, despite their best efforts to break it.

Natural Kingdoms – Healing with Homeopathy uses 3 case studies to explain the homeopathic process in the hope that it will encourage the reader to discover his/her own inner song to bring about better health and harmony in their own life.

Although, I am an amateur homeopath with limited experience, I like to read up a lot. This is the first book on homeopathy that I have read, that keeps in mind the emotional and mental state of the patient while treating the symptoms. Thus, it takes into account the entire individual, rather than just the symptoms exhibited and it was a refreshing change.

Very few homeopaths like Fr Augustus Muller have given a couple of pages to explain the physiological constitutions (sanguine/ lymphatic/ nervous/ bilious) and pathological constitutions (herpetic/ hysterical/ gouty/ haemorrhoial/ tuberculous) Most of the other authors only focus on the Materia Medica (body of collected knowledge about the therapeutic properties of any substance used for healing) and the symptomology. Which are more or less very concise and precise

Being an amateur NLP practitioner, I was happily surprised that homeopathy could even help a NLP teacher where the root cause was an insect bite (physical) and that he could not help himself despite his skill and high qualification. The verbal and non verbal cues and body language was beautifully integrated with the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdom personalities which was totally new reading for me.

The subtle touch of spirituality struck an emotional chord. It was nice to read Kabir’s Dohe and the explanation of the root cause of stress.

On the whole it was very good light reading, but, it was like walking on the beach with only the waves touching my toes. It left me asking for so much more, as there are so many unanswered questions.

It it is a new approach with maybe a more accurate diagnostic repertoire, but this book just touches the tip of the iceberg. I wish he would write a more comprehensive book which will open new horizons and help heal a lot more people.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Brajesh's Review : Dream Angus - The Celtic God of Dreams

Another book in the Myth Series, where Alexander McCall Smith follows the Celtic god of dreams Angus and his transformation through the book. Interwoven are a few other stories of love, eroticism, betrayal and revenge. The strength of the book is in the imaginative scale and like a good myth leaves you with your interpretation.

Still, Dream Angus is not amongst my favourite Alexander McCall Smith.

Rating : 3 / 5

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Kim's Review : The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window & Disappeared

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared  is a Swedish Novel by Jonas Jonasson, that has been translated into English by Rod Bradbury.

It was quite a novel experience reading a Swedish Novel that did not focus on horrific crimes and murders. However, this is a difficult book to categorise. There is humor, there is crime, there is social insight, well developed characters, loads of history and a man who finds himself slap bang in the middle of it all.

The life story of the 100 year old Alan Karlsson is told in two tracks of present and flashback.The book starts with him climbing out of the window of his old age home, and his adventures from that point and also shares with us the most interesting life that he has led to date. Think Forrest Gump, but with a lot more depth to the story and an equally if not more loveable lead character.

Alan Karlsson, is a simple character with simple needs, who hates politics of any kind, but finds himself in the middle of almost every political war of the century. From Spain to America to China to Iran to Indonesia to Russia. His simplicity puts him in complicated situations, but also extracts him from those same situations.

This is not a book that can be captured in a review, you have to read it for yourself.

Very, very heavily recommended.

Rating : 4.75 / 5

Friday, 10 October 2014

Brajesh's Review : Divergent Trilogy - Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant


Flowing narrative, complex yet lovable characters and a fast paced story line, this book has almost everything going for it. The story is set in a dystopian Chicago and introduces us to a society which works under strict rules of 5 factions.

Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Amity & Candor each hold true to a core virtue of humanity and hence have a corresponding role in running the city.

The story starts with protagonist Tris choosing her faction in an elaborate initiation ceremony which introduces us to this fantastic world and the five factions. The story moves at a good pace and suddenly explodes like a F1 car towards the end of the book. This unexpected change of pace really keeps the reader on the edge.

I am not a fan of the fantasy genre, but this book lived up to way beyond my expectation. Divergent is part one of the trilogy and the last 50 pages move at supersonic speed where the Dauntless members are controlled by Erudite to kill a large number of Abnegation members including Triss’s mother.

The story ends with key characters leaving the Chicago city towards an Amity settlement on the outskirts. The ending leaves you on a knife’s edge and I obviously rushed to pick-up the second part.

Rating : 4 / 5

After a brilliant Part 1, this book failed to live-up to my expectations. It almost felt that the author wanted to do justice to each of the factions. While the first part covered Abnegation and Dauntless, this one takes the story into Amity, Candor and Erudite set-ups.

While I understand the need the author would have felt towards these other factions, this covering of bases makes the story meander, till we reach into the world of Factionless. Since I related most to the faction of Erudite, it was a little disappointing to see the main villain emerging from this faction. This book has a lot more violence, given that the battle lines are now clearly drawn and the author has no need to explain the philosophy and details which were well covered in part 1.

The story ends with a small group ready to explore the world beyond the factions and city limits. But it was only the magic of part 1 which forced me go for part 3 and not this one

Rating : 2.5 / 5


By the start of part 3, I had settled into the world of dystopian Chicago with a nice rhythm of faction-led conflicts, characters makings unusual, bold and difficult choices, moral dilemmas and Tris emerging the hero at the end of each incident.

Book 3 completely blows away all these assumptions. To begin with the story is no longer told from Tris’s point of view, but alternates between her and Tobias’s voice. Most interestingly the book leaves the Chicago stage behind and goes across America into unusual places both geographically and narratively.

After reading the first two parts, I thought I was prepared for any plot twist , but Allegiant shocked me by turning all notions on their head. It would be impossible to write about this story without spoiler alerts so I will leave the story behind and mention only the brilliance of narrative thought, character complexities and a brilliant ending.

It isn’t easy to neatly tie-up all the threads in a trilogy without trivializing the reader, story or characters and Allegiant does it in style.

The only critique I can have on the trilogy is the meandering of narrative in parts of book 2, else it’s a recommended read across age groups and interests. Immediately after finishing the trilogy I watched the movie “Divergent” and must say that the movie has done well in bringing alive this wonderful world an characters. But like any adaptation, the movie leaves out more than it reveals, and should only be seen after you are through with the books.

I also figured out that Veronica has also come-out with a few back-stories of the plot in a new novel titled “Four” needless to say it has been purchased and is waiting on my "read immediately" shelf.

Rating : 2.5 / 5

Also Read : Kim's Review of the Trilogy

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Kim's Review : Cleopatra's Daughter

Cleopatra's Daughter is a work of Historical Fiction by Michelle Moran - Other than Madame Tussaud, I think this is my favourite by her so far, and my top choice in her Egyptian series. I think this book is much better researched (could also be because the Romans kept better records) than the others in the Egyptian set.

Cleopatra's Daughter follows the life of Selene and her twin brother Alexander (through Selene's voice) - children of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony  - from the time of Octavian's assault on Alexandria and the death of her parents to her marriage and escape from Rome and Octavian's immediate influence.

Children of deposed / murdered Royals lead a tough life. While originally accustomed to comfort and every luxury, when their parents are defeated, they too are subjected to the worst humiliations, from being turned into slaves, to being murdered or manipulated for political purposes.

Selene sees all of this happening all around her. To further complicate matters, she and Alexander are put under the guardianship of Octavia - Octavian's sister and Mark Antony's first wife whom he divorced to marry Cleopatra - their mother.

Men and women of the ruling class in Rome are treated like chess pieces by the rulers or their parents, they are made to marry and divorce according to what would best suit the manipulator at that point of time.

To add a bit of intrigue to this story, we have the anonymous character of "The Red Eagle" who tries to stand up to all the injustice and iniquities faced by the slaves in Rome.

I teared up a bit in places when reading this book, but the Roman - Egyptian conflict History is pretty depressing when you think of all the lives that were lost and the despicable condition of Prisoners of War who were brought back as slaves.

This is one of Michelle's best researched books - especially into Roman Laws of that time. The Rome of Selene's time was not the Rome that is today renowned  for its order, planning, laws and development. The Alexandria of this age was vastly superior to Rome in terms of town planning, culture and development. This makes the comparisons in the story interesting.

If you like Historical fiction, definitely pick this one up. Just remember it deals more with Rome than Egypt - If you are looking for Egyptian Historical Fiction, then try Michelle Moran's Nefertiti and the Heretic Queen.

Rating : 4.25 / 5

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Kim's Review : Way of the Warrior - The Legend of Abhimanyu

I've been enjoying Saurav Mohapatra's work from Devi to Moon Mountain and Mumbai Confidential. This time he has teamed up with Vinay Brahmania for his art work for a Graphic Novel for children on the story of Abhimanyu from the Mahabharat.

The story of Abhimanyu is one of Saurav's favourite Mythological stories and he was waiting for a chance to turn it into a Graphic novel.

While this story does play up Abhimanyu's courageous side, it also draws attention to his lack of patience and there are a few lessons that children can learn from this story.

The art work is very detailed when it comes to the characters and their expressions and loses detail when it comes to the larger picture of buildings and backgrounds (unlike Devi or snake woman)

This would make a lovely bed time read for kids.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Kim : The Top 10 books that have stayed with me

There's a chain going around on facebook to name the Top 10 books that have stayed with you for whatever reason. I was tagged by a friend - Arindam Nath. This isn't a list of the Best Literature you have read, but books that have stayed with you for whatever reason.

Here's my list:

1. The Dalai Lamas Cat and the Art of Purring - David Michie - this is the first book that spoke to my very heart. I've never felt as deeply connected to what was written in a book as I did with this one. It also awakened an interest to learn more about Buddhist philosophy. I've been recommending this to everyone I know for awhile.

2. Game of Thrones series - George RR Martin
2.1 A Game of Thrones
2.2 A Clash of Kings
2.3 A Storm of Swords (Steel & Snow, Blood & Gold)
2.4 A Feast for Crows
2.5 Dance with Dragons (Dreams & Dust, After the Feast)
The most phenomenal series ever. The width, breadth, scope of this fantasy is mind boggling. Loved every word of the series and can't wait for the next one.

3. Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts - he describes a city that was at once familiar and unfamiliar and I fell in love with Mumbai all over again.

4. Following Fish : Travels around the Indian Coast - Samanth Subramaniam - Food travel is the most interesting reason to travel, I loved the idea behind this book and its so beautifully written and it covers my home town Mangalore in one section.

5. Korma Kheer & Kismet - Pamela Timms

6. The Taj Mahal Trilogy (The Twentieth Wife, Feast of Roses, Shadow Princess) - Indu Sundaresan - I think she is the only Indian Author of Indian Historical Fiction and it was fascinating to read the stories of Mughal India through the eyes of the Women of the Ruling Families.

7. Shiva Trilogy (Immortals of Meluha, Secret of the Nagas, Oath of the Vayuputras) - Amish Tripathi - What a brilliant attempt to Humanise a God. This is a series completely different in construct and concept, from anything written before on Indian mythology.

8. The Cousins War series (Lady of the Rivers, White Queen, Red Queen, Kingmakers Daughter, White Princess) - Philippa Gregory - Another beautiful work of Historical Fiction set in the Cousins War in Europe, told through the lives of the Women involved. An interesting glimpse into history, it also showed me glimpses of the inspiration fro Game of Thrones.

9. Habibi - Craig Thompson - the Best Graphic Novel ever!

10. 1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising - Vishnu Bhatt Godshe translated by Mrinal Pande - A true story, but from the Indian perspective, this book is about facts through the eyes of the author and it is much stranger than fiction. It also put the First War of Indian Independence into perspective for me

 I just HAD TO add this one to the list -
11. In Search of Sita - anthology edited by Malashri Lal & Namita Gokhale - what a unique blend of alternative versions, speculative fiction and other forms of narrative writing. A familiar story retold in a myriad ways, all in one book, what more could you want?

I've also done a #10foodbookchallenge on my jhovaan blog where I have listed my Top 10 Food Books, in case you would like to take a look

Monday, 1 September 2014

Brajesh's Review : Korma, Kheer & Kismet

Part history, part memoir, part recipe book, part social commentary and part diary is probably the most apt description of this book by Pamela Timms. My wife handed me this book with a strong recommendation, knowing my interest in history, Old Delhi and food.

Pamela has combined her strong knowledge of food with an equally in-depth understanding of “Puraani Dilli”. The characters are colorful and textured, the stories rich and flavored, descriptions vivid and spicy.

Overall the book is satisfying and tasty like a wholesome home-cooked meal. I read the book over one sitting and now have a list of over 15 places which I would like to explore in Old Delhi.

For now "Ashok & Ashok" Korma sits right at the top.

Rating : 4 / 5

Also Read : Kim's Review of Korma, Kheer & Kismet

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : On Safari - The Tiger and the Baobab Tree

While on a week-end get-away at the Velavadar black buck sanctuary, I found this beautiful book  - "On Safari. The Tiger and the Bobab Tree" by Babi Nobis in the resort library.

The size of my list of unread-but-purchased books, gives me little motivation to purchase expensive photo books. These photo-books end-up being a one-time indulgence. Hence every time I find an opportunity to lay my hands on a photo-books I try and flip through it immediately.

“On Safari” is a collection of photos by Babi during his journeys in India and Africa. My favorite section is the one on the Indian Tiger which has many amazing pictures. These are beautifully laid out and printed on a very fine paper, both increasing the impact of these great photographs.

I have attached two collages from the book (pictures taken of the book) to give you an idea of how powerful the images are.

Babi is the founder board member of the wildlife protection society of India and his love for the animals is evident in the stories and nuggets accompanying the photos.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : A Short History of Myth

The title and size (149 pages) of this book - "A Short History of Myth" by Karen Armstrong, are both misleading. This is not a quick read at all. This is a book which expands horizons, gives perspective, questions history and addresses the issues of post-modern world through the lens of Mythology.

The book is a part of  the "Myth Series" similar to “The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ” written by Phillip Pullman.

This book was published the same day in 33 countries in 28 languages, in what The Washington Post called "the biggest simultaneous publication ever.

The book begins with a simple example of a Neanderthal grave. Using this Karen outlines the 5 core threads of a Myth.
1. It is about DEATH and beyond
2. RITUALS are integral
3. Works at the EDGE of experience
4. TELLS us about living practices and the
5. PERENNIAL Philosophy.

The book then takes us from 20,000 BCE to year 2000AD across 5 section of history. Each section is separated by a significant change in human evolution and corresponds with evolving themes of Myths. It is amazing to see the principles of Myth-making holding true over such a large historical commentary.

While I hate to mark my books, I read this book like a text book and the accompanying picture of my notes will give you an idea on how much there is to absorb in this so called “short history”. I quote from the jacket of her other book “History of God” which has been on my shelf for some-time: the perfect summary for this book. “Karen has the dazzling ability : she can take a long and complex subject and reduce it to its fundamentals without oversimplifying”.

I am filled with total and utter reverence for Karen and her writing. If you are not the reading type, I would still recommend you to spend 20 mins on her TED talk titled “The Charter for Compassion”.

The most amazing section for me in the book was the last chapter corresponding to 1500-2000 AD. In this section Karen laments the death of Mythos at the altar of Logos. Then summarizes beautifully by writing “using reason to discuss the sacred is like trying to eat soup with a fork”. Logos can tell us What & How, but it is only Mythos that can answer the broader bigger and existential question of Why.

The only reason the book doesn’t get a perfect 5, is the sheer weight it demands on ones intellect and can never be recommended, even to a casual reader of non-fiction.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Friday, 29 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : My Passage From India

"My Passage From India" is the life story of Ismail Merchant - from a school boy in Bombay to one of the biggest producers in Hollywood. From an struggling producer to one half of the legend of Merchant Ivory Productions.

This book has all the ingredients of a blockbuster film. The book feels like a perfectly cooked biryani which is balanced, sumptuous and wholesome at the same time. Not surprising, given Ismail Merchants fondness for good food and cooking.

The book is filled with beautiful stories, larger than life characters and sweet anecdotes, but the narrative still remains fast paced and light. The photographs are beautiful, like any Merchant Ivory period drama and so is the layout.

While I had watched "Heat and Dust" as a child on DD and "Cotton Mary" a few years back on a flight, my lack of interest in period dramas had deprived me of the magic of Merchant Ivory. This book has ensured that I will go back and finish the collection of Merchant Ivory's 5 Movies which we had picked up over 5 years back.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Also Read : Kim's Review of My Passage From India

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : Bhutan - Through the Lens of the King

I spotted this photo book by His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, at a wild life resort in Gujarat. As I am scheduled to visit the Shangrila Country of Bhutan next month, the coincidence was great, or may be given my impending visit, the country was top of mind and hence I spotted this book amongst the collection.

"Bhutan Through the Lens of the King" is a beautiful collection of photos by the current King (5th), taken during his visits across the country. He is known to travel across Bhutan regularly to connect with his people. Often these visits are difficult treks of 4-5 days in hilly terrain, which he undertakes while sleeping in make shift tents.

This book hence not only gives us a peek into this breathtakingly beautiful country, it tells us a lot about the commitment and selfless approach of the Bhutanese Kings. It is the father (4th King) of the current King who invented the now famous concept of Gross Domestic Happiness Index. GHI is now widely regarded as a more wholistic tool of progress. GHI adds the dimensions of Good Governance, Environmental Harmony and Preservation of Cultural Heritage to the traditional economic measure of GDP.

The commentaries by Pavan Varma and Malvika Singh helped my uninformed mind get a context on this neighbouring country. A monarch who willingly renounced his throne at 50 without any compulsions of health or political issues. Then along with his son he dismantled the monarchy to usher in democracy in a peaceful transition.

A society which has this great ability to balance the demands of modern technological advances and economical growth measures perfectly, alongside the preservation of their cultural and environmental heritage.

Clearly this youngest democracy of the world in a tiny nation has lots of offer to its big brothers across the globe. I only hope that the big brothers are paying attention to the case study.

Once the country context is understood and the reader understands that the king is positioned not as a ruler but as a servant of the people, the photographs attain a different meaning. Rather than talk about the photos, I am attaching a collage to give you a sample. This book has now given me reasons to visit Bhutan with the respect of a student and not the lens of a tourist.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : Adi Parva

"Tales must be tilled like the land so they keep breathing. The only thing you owe allegiance to is the essence." This quote sums-up Amruta Patil's Adi Parva in particular and also gives the philosophical context of the greatest story ever told.

Adi Parva is the first chapter - the beginning of Mahabharat. "In the beginning, one beginning, among countless beginnings" this non-linear narrative sets the mood and characters of the epic.

The book begins at the "beginning of it all, where between the end of one world and the beginning of another, Vishnu sleeps". It uses Ganga as the sutradhaar to hold the knots of a mega narrative . As the sutradhaar moves along the string from one knot to another, out come the stories.

The beauty of this book is its ability to summarise the Adi Parva in a 2 hour read. The full power of the graphic medium is used to further the narrative while simultaneously keeping the mystic qualities alive. The unfinished feel of the picture panels leave enough space for the the reader to personalise the myth and submerge oneself into existential debates.

I will only review the graphics here as I am obviously inadequate to review the greatest story of all times. The art is perfectly balanced to hold the reader as he/she pauses to gaze at the panels while absorbing the deep philosophical layer of the narrative.

Thank you Amruta Patil for tilling the tale of Adi Parva for a whole new generation. I have also made note of a few books from the bibliography section, which will keep my exploration of Myth and Mahabharat going for a few years to come.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window & Disappeared

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is a crackling, sharp, witty, rock-star of a novel.

The original Swedish novel has been translated into English by Rod Bradbury. I picked this up at a recent 80% discount, but would recommend you to buy it, even if you are paying 400% premium. Books like this don’t come around often and you shouldn’t miss this one.

The life story of the 100 year old Alan Karlsson is told in two tracks of present and flashback.

No words can do justice to the experience of reading this breathtakingly funny book. I broke into laughter on every second page. While the book is a solid 389 pages long, halfway into the book you would hope that the story never ends. As Alan continues his current journey out of the window, each new character he meets turns out to be wilder than the previous.

While the current story line is hilarious, Alan’s past is downright maniacal. Over his 100 year life journey he meets significant historical characters like General Franco, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, De Gaulle, Churchill, Stalin, Mao and some-one who turns out to be Einstein’s Brother.

While each of these meetings are crazily funny, the impact of these meetings are outlandishly enormous. To give you a sample - our hero Alan seems to be at the center of great revolutions in Iran, Spain and China. He has trekked across the Himalayas. He also seems to be the person responsible for the invention of the atom bomb, strangely for both America and Russia. If your head is already spinning, wait to you read the funniest book of the year.

This novel is an epic and I am sure it will inspire many more novels and movies.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Monday, 25 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : Madhubala - "I Don't Want to Die"

Given my adoration of Madhubala, I was so happy to receive this gift from my wife. The small comic like, 40 page life story of Madhubala is part of a series titled “Discovery Books” by General Press.

I think the concept is outstanding to have short 50/- MRP booklets to educate the interested reader. Topics and personalities covered in this series range from Amitabh, Sachin, Lal Bahadur Shastri to AIDS, Jama Masjid & Delhi.

Unfortunately the book didn’t even have material to to do justice to 40 pages. It felt more like a badly written long essay on Madhubala. The themes of Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi’s (Madhubala) strict father and her legendary affair with Yusuf Bhai (Dilip Kumar) is repeated umpteen times. It would have been better to edit the book further by 40% or get some additional material to avoid this useless repetition.

For a fan of Madhubala there is enough new material for a quick read. But the poor quality of writing and lack of authentic insights mean that I won’t be recommending this series to anyone.

Rating : 2.5 / 5

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Kim's Review : Labyrinth

Labyrinth is the print version of some selected short stories from the virtual world of

Its been a long time that I read a set of short stories and I read this one inspite of Brajesh's low rating,  because while we share a lot of similar tastes in fiction and non-fiction, I do love quirky short stories too.

Its been a long time since I read an Indian anthology of short stories and with a variety of writers, it is obvious that some stories would be better than the others. This collection has 15 stories by 10 authors.

My favourite was Mainak Dhar's - The Martyr which completely brings home the futility of war and the senseless death of children.

The Puppet Show meandered a bit too much for me and I would have like a sharper editing. That actually was an issue with a lot of the short stories, they could have been kept shorter.

Candies was the most ridiculous of the lot, I just didn't see the point of actions taken by Divya, they were more psycho than anything else. If you want to include a twist in your tale, it better make logical sense. Jeffery Archer is a master of this genre, this was a damp squib.

I also enjoyed Rishabh's Travel through the Night and the Labyrinth is the best piece of Greek speculative fiction I have recently read.

A Day of Battle seemed pointless, as it had nothing new to contribute, I dont know why it was included in this collection.

Ruskaya Rulyetka was a good change and the Night of the wokambee had a really funny ending.

Not a bad attempt, but nothing extraordinary either.

Rating : 3 / 5

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : Sister

"Sister" by Rosamund Lupton is a book about the bond of sisterhood, and also a murder mystery and thriller. Not an easy genre to tackle.

While the book does justice to the sisterhood, I found it weaker in the thrill and mystery part. The unusual story telling style hold you for a large part, but gets heavy in the last quarter.

The story is told from the point of view of an elder sister, who flies to London to be with her mother as her younger sister has gone missing. As the story progresses the elder sister turns into a part crusader, part detective.

The characters are real and you start to relate to their pain with each turning of the page. Even the psychology of the fringe characters is well fleshed out.

The book will work well with a Western audience, given the cultural & emotional landscape is quite more familiar to them. If you like psychological-emotional thrillers like “Gone Girl” this will appeal to you. Though “Gone Girl” far superseded "Sister" in terms of style and narration.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Friday, 22 August 2014

Thought : All I Want in Life is . . .

Kim's Review : The Winds of Hastinapur

The Winds of Hastinapur is the third book by Sharath Komarraju and the first in his series - on The Ladies of Hastinapur. The series plans to tell the story of the Mahabharat through the eyes of some of its leading ladies. Winds of Hastinapur is the tale told by Ganga and Satyavati, the next one will feature Amba, Kunti and Gandhari. However Sharath has promised that Ganga will be the main narrator and that she will remain in the story until the end of the series.

That is not surprising given his interpretation on the immortality of the Gods of Meru, which is an interesting concept and in itself makes this book worth reading. Sharath has tried to bring about some reality into the fantasy and fantastical elements of the Mahabharath, but other elements remain.

The concept of Leading Ladies retelling the Mahabharat is not a new one, we have seen Pratibha Ray's Yajnaseni & Chitra Diwakaruni's Palace of Illusions which told the tale through Draupadi, The Outcasts Queen tells the story through Princess Uruvi - Karna's Royalborn Wife. Manu Sharma has written multiple female perspectives in Hindi - Draupadi ki Atmakatha, Gandhari ki Atmakatha etc However, I think this is the first time that they have done so in sequence, by a single author.

This book wouldn't really be classified as Speculative fiction, but it is more an interpretation of the events as they happen through a different perspective. The speculative portion of this story is negligible compared to facts from the original. The churning of the Ocean of Milk is the only incident which is reinterpreted in terms of Speculative Fiction and perhaps Bhishma's discoveries before he comes back to take his place as his fathers heir.

I loved the tale of Ganga, it is turned in to something so natural and Satyavati's intentions in her perspective seem so pure, yet the results of those intentions caused serious repercussions.

The question still remains though, how much is actually in our hands and how much is decreed by fate / God?

Rating : 3.75 / 5

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Brajesh's Review : Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You

Another Devdutt Pattanaik special. By now, I am quite familiar and comfortable with his narration style. This book addresses the controversial issue of queer characters and queerness in Indian mythology. He handles the issue with great objectivity and each story is accompanied with his signature endearing drawings.

"Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You" opens with a lovely quote, which for me summarizes the entire hypocritical approach of modern religions around the LGBT issue. On page 1, the book says “Beware of a land where celibate men decide what is good sex”.

Then, over 170 pages he shares 30 stories which aren’t necessarily a part of the main-stream mythological narrative. While I was aware or some of the stories featuring characters of Shikhandi, Mohini, Aardhnarishwar and Brihanalla. I was happy to discover many a new characters like Makara, Chudala, Gopeshwara, Samaran, Aravan, Sudyumna, Pormannan, Samba, Alli and Pramilla. It was also satisfying to unearth newer stories around familiar characters of Mallinath, Maandhata, Urvashi, Bhagirath and Bahucharaji.

At the end of each story, Devdutt Pattanik gives a one or two page commentary exploring the queer aspects and interpretations of the story. Overall the book comes together beautifully between the story, sketches and commentary.

It is also interesting to note the range of sources from which the book draws the stories from. It doesn’t limit itself to only Vedic and Puranic literature, it also draws from stories from South Indian literature and folk traditions.

I recommend this book to be read by all supporters and opponents of the homosexuality. The last page of the book has a quote from Vedas which leaves the ideal takeaway for any reader. “Vikruti Evam Prakriti” which can be loosely translated as “all things queer are also a part of nature”.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

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