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

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