Friday, January 29

Rankin all the way !

A few days back,i somehow found myself in Landmark on a special mission.More on the mission later.. and ended up attending a book launch...Now,i have attended a few book launches in the past and have found that a lot of authors who are brilliant when it comes to the written word, turn wallflowers and subdued at launches. Nervous laughter and comments follow. Well,this one was so different.So super confident and articulate that Ian Rankin came across that i found myself warming up to the prospect of buying his books :-O!

A little bit about Rankin.. Ian Rankin is touted at one of the top crime fiction writers in the UK.His inspector Remus series is hugely popular and accounts for almost 10% crime novels sold in the UK.His novels are based in Edinburgh and graphically describe the criminal underbelly of the city.With more than 20 novels to his credit,Rankin was in the city for the launch of this new book,The complaints.I read his interview in the Hindu (open ed page)this morning and realized what a huge phenomenon he is !!.

I have never seen a better-handled question and answer session before.. Rankin was brimming with wit and his every answer had a clarity and earnestness that endeared him to the audiences.He also shared snippets about his life,work,opinion on crime,writing and sundry..His anecdotes were funny and there were several i liked a lot..

Rankin was talking about how his first 7 novels were huge failures and he needed a bestseller to just survive.He decided to write under a pseudonym and took the name -Jack Harvey.Rankin elaborated on why he chose this name.Apparently in the UK,books are arranged in such a way that the authors with an "A" surname found themselves on top of the shelf and the ones with a "z" surname at the bottom.Now,our smart author picks a surname that is not only partially the name of his son(first and middle name),but also ensured that he got his books placed at eye level,making sure that people picked his books up,leastwise to browse them!...Rankin also spoke about how there is a certain amount of intellectual snobbism critics and readers in general indulged in.Crime fiction is never perceived as Literature and is always considered populist. I think what he said makes a lot of sense .. I have often caught myself practicing this snobbery when i read chicklits/light reads.Put in his words.. There should be only 2 classes of books - Good ones and bad ones!.

I ended up giggling like a teenager at the end of the launch and bought one of his book(Black and Blue) just to get an autograph from him!.My first author-autographed book!.yay!!.Black and Blue apparently was the book that changed Rankin's fate and made him a bestselling author .The author himself mentioned during the launch that it was his favorite work till date,so i promptly bought it as i was intrigued about his writing. I am all set to discover another author..

I have to tell you about this mission which the hubby and I have set for ourselves.. A library with 1000 books in the next 1 year..We have just around 200 books now.So a long way to go !!.When i was younger,i was fortunate to discover many authors like PG Wodehouse & RK Narayan thanks to the books my father had collected.We'll hopefully be able to introduce our kids to such great authors someday!.

Saturday, January 23

Review of BPO Sutra by Sudhindra Mokhasi

A compendium of real life BPO stories compiled and edited by Sudhindra Mokhasi. 150 accounts that gives us insights into lives of people working in the industry touted as one of the Sunrise industries in India.Sudhindra himself has worked in various BPOs for almost a decade and some of the stories are drawn from his own experiences.

The stories are mostly one-two pagers and make for a light time pass read.No deep insights or wit here.The stories mostly revolve around abusive clients,dumb clients,the shady happenings in a call center,the affairs and sexual harassment cases,insensitive bosses and the works.Nothing jumps out at you out of the pages and sustains your attention for more than 20 minutes. To be very fair, i did like a few stories in there..There was story where a supervisor goes out of the way to help out an old lady who is unable to use her credit card.The old lady asks for the Supervisor's address,to which the supervisor just gives here name of company and says that it was in India.A week later the supervisor is surprised to see a package for her in the mail.She opens the package to find a box of chocolates and a cute letter from the old lady.The old lady had taken the pains to figure out where the supervisor worked and had sent her the chocolates !.. sweet woman,no??

Several stories revolved around BPO drivers and adventures of Agents while onsite.There are lots of sleazy stories as well.For someone who isn't accustomed to such stories,this book might have seemed new and different.I didn't find anything new as the Hubby regales me with such tales almost everyday.Yeah,he works for a BPO.No,he doesnt take calls ;-)!.

BPO sutra also happens to be an online portal( are forums for people in the industry to interact with each other.There are also mentorship programs,job postings and gyan articles about how to get it on in the industry. The second volume is in the pipeline and the author is looking for more stories.Do check the site for details.

Overall,a lacklustre book.Good for reading in short bursts.Ideal for local travel!.

My rating : 2.5/5
Publisher: RUPA
Price: Rs. 95

Tuesday, January 19

The name is Rajinikanth -Shoddy job!

Let me start this review with a disclaimer: I am not a huge fan of Rajinkanth.Have never been.However, i can't not acknowledge this Man's success.Affectionately called the superstar,Rajini has 69,000 fan clubs dedicated to him.Despite his average looks & acting abilities, Rajini has almost a "GOD" status in Tamil Nadu. I was curious about his life and picked up the book to get to know the "star" more!.

The book has been written by Gayathri Shreekanth, who prefers to be referred to as an ophthalmologist turned Writer. I can't fathom how the lady has the guts to call herself a writer.My hand itched ,wanting to correct the gazillion typo errors, misspellings,gross grammatical errors and horrendous formatting that the book is littered with..Throughout the book i wondered why the editor didn't try to make any corrections to the glaring mistakes.Either the writing was so bad to begin with that the editor gave up trying to make it better or that the editor was so bad that he/she didn't find anything amiss.

However,the writing style ,i must confess is racy,almost like a Rajinikanth movie.The book has more dialogues than what you would normally associate with a biography.The book's appeal is the extraordinary Rags to riches story of Rajinikanth,a story that has never failed to evoke sympathy and awe since time immemorial.After a few pages of nit-picking,I decided to forget about the almost-offensive grammar and concentrate of the tidbits and anecdotes shared in the book. That's when i found that the book was charming and that it was literally growing on me..Wasn't that how most Rajinikanth movies were?..Entertainment above anything else!.

Gayathri describes Rajini's childhood and his struggle to become an actor very well. Another aspect i liked about the book was that it was not an excuse to extoll the virtues of Rajini,but also tackled various negative aspects about him. I didn't know that Rajini took to drinking when he was very young(around 12years).His infamous nervous breakdown is also covered in great detail in the book.

I read somewhere that the book was written without Gayathri ever making a single visit to see Rajinikant.That does make me wonder whether the material in the book is mostly hearsay/googled!. However,several other co-stars like Siva Kumar,Sri Priya ,Kushboo and many directors have shared their candid opinions about him in the book.Though,the friendship between Kamal and Rajini has been dealt very briefly,more inputs from Kamal is ostensibly missing.

Little Shivaji's (Rajini's real name) naughty antics leave you grinning ear to ear and Gayathri has done justice to capture this part of the Superstar's life very well.It's when the story moves to his adulthood that things start getting muddled as the narrative bounces between time periods and gets as choppy as it possibly can.One startling aspect that jumps at you is Rajini's closeness with his friends.At every juncture,he has had friends who have supported and egged him on to success.How else can you explain someone with mediocre looks and talent become such a sensation?.It is also a well known fact that director KB(K.Balachander)'s magical wand was instrumental in sculpting Rajini's career and this aspect has also been covered in the book.KB has not only been a mentor but has also helped Rajini on personal issues (like the time Rajini wanted to give up acting,get a divorce and embrace sainthood).Rajinikanth's brush with spirituality is also broached upon in great detail.I expected more trivia about his working life ,but was not too dissapointed with the fare Gayathri had to offer.

The almost fairytale like story of Rajinikanth's marriage to his wife Latha also makes one wonder about various facets to Rajini. One one hand he is this rough,unpolished actor brimming with vices and on the other hand, he vows to unconditionally love and marry a college girl he barely knows.I was also surprised to know that at one point in time Rajini was considered highly arrogant and irresponsible in the industry.And,look how he has metomorphised into the most loved actor in Tamilnadu !.

Rajini's political ambitions or the lack thereof have also been elaborated in the book. I was amused at the power-play incidents between Dr.Ramadoss of PMK and Rajini outlined in the book.Several ego-centric incidents involving Jayalalitha and Rajini are also mentioned in the book.The most amusing one is when Rajini gets miffed when he is made to wait for almost half hour as the then-CM,Jayalalitha was traveling through that route. Traffic was piling up and people were made to wait incessantly. Rajini gets out of the car and stands in the middle of the road making people run frantically towards him to get his autograph.The traffic police go bonkers and don't know how to control the situation.Finally they hold Jayalalitha's vehicle and let Rajinikanth's car leave.

This book is definitely for hard-core Rajinikanth's fans-For people whom content would matter moreover form.As i finished reading the book i couldn't stop wondering how luck and risk-taking behavior has catapulted a boy who started his career lifting heavy gunny bags and sacks to a supernova beyond description.

A true phenomenon,who decidedly deserves a better written book!.

2/5 for the writing style
3/5 for the wealth of information it shares about the star.

Ok read. If you are a purist who insists on good grammar, please stay away from this book.If you like a rollicking,fun read with bad grammar,please go pick it up !;-)

Saturday, January 16

Cocktails for three- Where's the high?

It's no secret that i love Sophie Kinsella's writing.As a corollary, i assumed that i would like Madeleine Wickham's writing as well.After all,it was by the same author. I wouldn't say i was entirely right. The writing styles are as different as morning and night. Whereas,Kinsella enthralls you with her witty writing, Madeline's writing is more restrained and mature.I haven't read any other Madeleine novel and might run the risk of over-generalizing.

Cocktails for three is about the lives of 3 young with-it women who work for a magazine in London and are best of friends.
Roxanne is a confident and gutsy young lady who has a secret lover whose identity nobody knows.Not even the other 2 girls.

Maggie is the capable editor of the magazine who finds it difficult to grapple with the issues of motherhood

Candice is the quintessential trusting,generous blonde with a troubled past.

The trio meet regularly at a local bar to gossip and catch up with their lives.Their lives change when, unexpectedly Candice's schoolmate turns up as a waitress at their favorite bar.The story is not exactly path breaking and is predictably tame.
Each woman has a different ghost to conquer and as usual the story is about how the women get their act together at the end of it all..Can chick-lits have an ending other than a "happily ever after"?.

I was a little dissapointed with the typecasting related to names.Do all Roxanne's have to be gutsy and spunky ?.Similarly, do all Candice's have to be blonde,unsuspecting innocent girls?.The book didn't make me gasp out of surprise at any point in the narrative.

That is where i realized that the Kinsella name hung about this novel's neck like a dead albatross. This book was not meant to have crazy twists.It was meant to chronicle the journeys of 3 young women who were battling 3 different situations. When i started seeing the book in this light,i felt that the book was not that disappointing.It was a standard Danielle Steele-type fare(sans the melodrama and copious amounts of tearing!).Despite the book being devoted to 3 heroines,all 3 characters are etched out well.

The emotions that the 3 central characters go through are also captured very well.However,some emotions like the insecure feeling that Maggie has when her mother in law tries to help her out or the one where Candice feels guilty about the families that her father ruined is a little grating on the nerves after a point as it gets too excessive.

Overall,its a decent read. Not as light-hearted or funny as i would have wanted it to be.If i didn't know that this was written by the same lady who wrote Confessions of a shopaholic, i would probably not judge it this way!.Definitely not my style of writing,but i have promised myself to read a few more Madeleine books to understand her style better.I would stick to Cecilia Ahern or Danielle Steele if i needed a non-humorous chick-lit fix !

Rating : 2 out of 5.

Ok,i have signed up for the Booker challenge and have decided to start of with Winner's circle where 6 booker winners need to be read in the next one year.. doable i guess..I have read only 2 books ,that too a long time ago.. needs a revisit!! List of winners..

2009 - Wolf Hall (Mantel)
2008 - The White Tiger (Adiga)
2007 - The Gathering (Enright)
2006 - The Inheritance of Loss (Desai)
2005 - The Sea (Banville)
2004 - The Line of Beauty (Hollinghurst)
2003 - Vernon God Little (Pierre)
2002 - Life of Pi (Martel)
2001 - True History of the Kelly Gang (Carey)
2000 - The Blind Assassin (Atwood)
1999 - Disgrace (Coetzee)
1998 - Amsterdam: A Novel (McEwan)
1997 - The God of Small Things (Roy)
1996 - Last Orders (Swift)
1995 - The Ghost Road (Barker)
1994 - How Late It Was, How Late (Kelman)
1993 - Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (Doyle)
1992 - The English Patient (Ondaatje)
1992 - Sacred Hunger (Unsworth)
1991 - The Famished Road (Okri)
1990 - Possession: A Romance (Byatt)
1989 - The Remains of the Day (Ishiguro)
1988 - Oscar and Lucinda (Carey)
1987 - Moon Tiger (Lively)
1986 - The Old Devils (Amis)
1985 - The Bone People (Hulme)
1984 - Hotel Du Lac (Brookner)
1983 - Life & Times of Michael K (Coetzee)
1982 - Schindler's Ark (Keneally)
1981 - Midnight's Children (Rushdie)
1980 - Rites of Passage (Golding)
1979 - Offshore (Fitzgerald)
1978 - The Sea, the Sea (Murdoch)
1977 - Staying on (Scott)
1976 - Saville (Storey)
1975 - Heat and Dust (Jhabvala)
1974 - The Conservationist (Gordimer)
1974 - Holiday (Middleton)
1973 - The Siege of Krishnapur (Farrell)
1972 - G. (Berger)
1971 - In a Free State (Naipaul)
1970 - The Elected Member (Rubens)
1969 - Something to Answer For

Thursday, January 14

NEXT is what ??

Un-putdownable!!Yeah, i am talking about Micheal Chrichton's NEXT. I have always been a huge fan of Chichton's writing. I inadvertently purchased Congo 2 decades back (yeah,i am ancient!!) and discovered a superb author. Jurassic parks of the world have catapulted him into almost a Cult-author.Crichton passed away in 2008 and two more books have been published posthumously.We have indeed lost a wonderful author..

Ok,back to business... NEXT doesn't read like a normal novel. It felt more like reading about a bunch of startling issues and events related to genetics..Talking chimps,Transgenic apes, Bio-advertising, Gene re-engineering.. the list is endless..After a point,the narrative gets so absorbing that one finds it difficult to draw a line between fact and fiction.

Reviewing the plot wouldn't make sense as the narrative is interspersed with news clippings and research studies.I am amazed at how Crichton has broken down complicated aspects of laws pertaining to Gene patenting and woven it with a racy narrative. There is an elaborate author's note at the end of the book detailing his views on what is wrong with several things concerning genetics...mentioning just 2 of them which i thought were freaky!!

1.Gene Patenting: Currently, i believe the US laws allow patents on chunks of genes.These patents are predominantly owned by universities and corporates.Chrichton says that patents on more than half the genome and most diseases are owned by corporations.How can any company own a disease??.And because these corporations own patent on genes,it makes it very expensive for other researchers to work on these diseases and hence push up the cost of treating the disease.Corporotisation of researchers is a scary trend!.

2. Use of Human tissues- Chrichton cites several cases where blood samples given to universities for testing & research purposes have been misused and genes derived from the blood have been used to develop cell lines. These cell lines are sold to pharma companies for billions of dollars.Later,these corporation turn on their heels and insist that they own the cell line and hence own the cells of the donor. In effect,this means that a man does not have right over his own body ,but a corporation does because it has a patent on the cells derived from the body.

Several other startling incidents like the emergence of a new breed of artists who work with bodily materials for creating art has been broached by the author.For example,Berlusconi's fat (Italian PM ) which was liposuctioned at a clinic was made into a soap and auctioned for 18,000$ and was considered a work of art. yes this is real !!.. you can google it !.Since,gene recombinant kits are available online for several hundred dollars,almost anyone has been able to create transgenic species.. This is a scary thought !.As much as scientific progress is necessary,the sanctity of life is necessary lest we end up with rabbits with spikes and elephants with an exoskeletons!.

Do read the book for more.. !! Highly recommended!!

Sunday, January 10

2 nd shot ! .. 100 shots challenge

Pimienta Pancakes by O Henry

I am of the opinion that O Henry never fails to deliver.Every story written by him has a different appeal . Piementa Pancakes is no exception .I am sure it will make people chuckle. It’s a funny story of the reason for a guy’s aversion towards Pancakes..If I say anything more about this story,it would be akin to letting out the spoilers ..Highly recommended read !

Catch this story at- Pimienta Pancakes

Useless beauty by Guy Maupassant

Another author I have read only as a part of school curriculum.I don’t remember being very taken in with his writing, but one cant expect much out of a 13 year old,can they?. This story by Maupassant is a slightly longish one and several times during the narrative,I felt myself slipping away and wondering whether this should qualify as a short fiction at all in the first place. Maybe,the meandering narrative was needed to make the plot more effective. It’s a story about how a Count loses sleep over speculation about a statement made by his lady.Several discourses on beauty and nature of human beings thrown in liberally.. I didn’t like it too much, but am sure this is not going to be my last Maupassant story for sure.

Catch this story at - Useless Beauty

Uncle Richard’s New year's Dinner by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I selected this story because I had never read this author and I remembered seeing a review of another story in one of the blogs.Montgomery didn’t disappoint me!. I belong to a school of thought that believes that short stories need to have a twist to be effective or entertaining and hence have not been able to enjoy many gems that don’t have a twist. Uncle New year's Dinner is a simple story that does not have any twists,but still manages to warm the heart and entertain.Another lovely Christmastime story.Do read this story !.

Catch this story at - Uncle Richard's New year's Dinner

Oh,the picture in this post is of one of my favorite authors !! any guesses??? ;-)

Thursday, January 7

New year and yayyyy!!!

Wishing everyone an awesome year ahead.. may all your dreams come true and you & your loved ones be happy and safe ...I have no resolutions for this year.. no expectations or plans..just willing to embrace whatever Life chooses to throw my way...