Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review #4: Horseshoe Garage

Name:           Horseshoe Garage
Author:         Hitesha
No. of Pages: 389
Genre:           Fiction
Publisher:      Jufic Books (An imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)
Price:            Rs. 245/-
Published in:  2013

The blurb of the book says: Though he has gotten used to his salary and his job at Grant Motors, Sarvesh still finds himself waking up in the middle of the night, his heart pounding with the excitement of a Neo-Racing dream. The technologically advanced cars and the smell of the burnt rubber of the tyres haunt him all the time.

When Neo-racing creates space for a team from India, Sarvesh is determined to be a part of it. Tagging along as a non-descript member of another giant team is not going to suffice. Along with his best friend Rags, he is determined to lead his own team on to Neo-racing race circuits.

Naaz is an orphan who has been raised in a garage and has never studied beyond the fourth grade. She has taught herself all that she knows about cars by working alongside sweaty mechanics. This knowledge allows her to deduce in three seconds that the car design created by Sarvesh and Rags will not qualify for Neo-Racing.

Friendship is tested, loyalties are questioned and spirits are broken in this challenging race to achieve an impossible dream.

About the author: Hitesha: If you meet her, she will greet you with a smile and make you feel like you have known her all your life. Yet, she prefers the solitude of the mountains and escapes to them often with her husband and two ‘kids’. Surrounded by whispering winds and the pitter patter of the paws of her St. Bernard and Cocker Spaniel she weaves stories with her words. A criminologist by qualification, an entrepreneur by profession and a writer at heart, her twitter profile (@DeSueno) describes her the best – “I giggle, I smile, I dream a while. I love, I write, I tell tales all the while.”

To me, this book was a pleasant surprise. It was one of the 4 books that the publisher had sent me for review and I chose to read it at last. Frankly, I did not expect it to be really good. But it completely took me by surprise. From the first page to the last word, nowhere I was bored. It was a fresh plot as were the characters. The story had emotions, drama, romance, controversies, misunderstandings and even a little action...everything that a bollywood masala flick needs. It was as if I was reading a movie. 

I loved the main characters--Sav the dreamer, his best friend Rags the hunk, Kam the sexy fiancee of Rags and Naaz the 'car' prodigy who can build a car single-handedly. The plot is they all come together to form a team and create a racing car (well, they do it thrice) and win Neo-Racing. Sav and Rags are best buds from college and work in separate motor companies. One day they learn that their dream Neo-Racing is coming to India and they decide to quit their jobs and pursue their true call. Then they had a team to assemble. Kam is Rags live-in girlfriend. When Naaz, a star mechanic, enters the plot, Sav falls in love with her at first sight. Then follows love, jealousy, deception, misunderstanding, hope and passion.

In a nutshell, I loved it.  I liked the cover too--simple and minimal. I would give the "Horseshoe Garage" 5 on a scale of 5.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Review #3: A Salesman's Lessons

Name:           A Salesman's Lessons
Author:         C R Jena
No. of Pages: 210
Genre:           Business and Management
Publisher:      Platinum Press (An imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)
Price:            Rs. 195/-
Published in:  2013

The blurb of the book says: What is the ground reality for a Salesman? Do the various laws, theories, hypotheses, anecdotes and sayings of science, mathematics, literature, engineering, management, history – in fact, everything that we painstakingly read and absorb in order to gain our college degrees before we start working, equip us for field situations when we actually go into the all–too–real–world of Sales? Can we really use the academic learning we struggled with and paid so much for, to sell better? Are there certain factors (which do not appear in the pages of any college or business school text), that are crucial to success in Sales? In an engaging narrative based on his own 15 years in the field, the Author explores the answers to just these questions. The book is light reading and fun but the lessons it contains are both down–to–earth and serious. This is not a self–help book to make you a Sales champion, but if you do pick up a few tips along the way, then that is a double whammy!

About the author: C. R. JENA, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, is a sales professional with 15 years experience selling products and services in the IT industry. He has worked in India and major geographies of the world. Currently he is Business Head at Mahindra Satyam, Africa, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.Jena is a regular participant, panellist and speaker at various fora and events in the IT domain. His previous book, 22 Things You Should Know About Indian IT, received critical acclaim from both the industry as well as aspiring engineering students.

You can checkout his website to know more. 

The book consists of 27 short chapters, each chapter dwelling on a particular theory. The author had tried applying theories from various disciplines (mathematics, management, physics, etc.) in his sales career, which he has compiled in this book. At the end of each chapter, the author gives 'Statements to use', which are actually points which you should remember. But I felt he should have called the points something else instead of 'Statements to use'.

I am sure sales personnel will enjoy this book thoroughly as they will be able to relate to the given situations easily. Being a management graduate as well as a science student, I found it interesting as to how the author had used the various concepts in the sales field. But at times I found it difficult to keep my interest and concentration intact. I suggest that you take one chapter at a time.

Overall, it's a nice read. I would give the "A Salesman's Lessons" 3 on a scale of 5.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Author Interview #1 : Anand Neelakantan

Anand Neelakantan needs no introduction. With 'Asura-Tale of the vanquished', he has become a well known name in the world of book lovers. 'Asura' is his debut book which secured a place in the list of bestsellers. Now he is back with his second book' Ajaya ' which is due to release in December 2013. The publisher Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd. gave me opportunity to interview such a talented author. I am sharing the interview here.

1.First of all, congratulations on the completion of a successful year of 'Asura'. So many accolades for your debut novel and then the release of the hardback edition of it earlier this year. How does it feel?

It is a dream come true to any author. When I was toiling for 6 years and was doubting about my skills about telling a good story over the pile of rejection letters I used to get, in my wildest imaginations, I had not thought about a success like this.

2.Tell us something about your upcoming novel 'Ajaya'.

Ajaya again is about the power of perspective. What if the defeated have a story to tell. Ajaya looks Mahabharata from the view point of Kauravas and especially the Crown Prince Suydohana (damned as Duryodhana in popular telling) who was cheated out of his inheritance.

3.First Ravana and now the Kaurava's side of story to the Mahabharata, both of which are perceived as evil. How challenging had it been for you to portray both Ravana and the Kauravas in a neutral light?

I believe it is possible only in India and only with the Hindu mythologies because of the open mindedness of Indians. It is not easy to write something that goes against the popular beliefs that have been held dear for the past three or four thousand years. The logic has to be compelling and the research meticulous. I may have shortcomings as a writer, but I hope no one would accuse me of not working hard and putting my heart into my writing.

4.I have read in one of your interviews that during your research for 'Asura' , you came across several versions/variations of the Ramayana. Was the experience similar in case of 'Ajaya' too?

The great epics of India are living epics. They are not canonical religious texts. They evolve with times and places. Since there is no organized religious bodies in Hinduism that says what should be followed and what should be said and what not, our culture has evolved with myriad hues and views. That is why the appeal of the epics transcends religious and linguistic differences in our country and most of Asia. This might be the only religion where I can be a fan of the so called evil characters of our epics and still be a Hindu. There are so many traditions and tales that add to the rich tapestry of our culture. The kind of variety in Ramayana and Mahabharata that I have come across while doing my research for Asura and Ajaya can itself become many volumes of books.

5.The cover page of 'Ajaya' says 'Book 1'. So will the story unfold in a series of sequels?

The first book is Roll of the dice and the second and last one in the series will be called Rise of Kali.

6. What do you feel--did the Indian mythological stories really happened or are they mere fables?

Why should it matter? A good story is more real than any facts. The term mythology itself is misleading. Ramayana and Mahabharata are ithihasas for which there is no equivalent English word. For Indians they are history. That is how we have chosen to say history. That may be different from the western way of telling it. That should not bother us. Just like Indian classical music is different from the western one, our way of telling history is different. If what is told in history is all truth, then our way of telling history also contains many truths. We all know that history is written by the victors, whether it is in western way of telling it or Indian way of expounding it through stories, Our epics have as much truth as any history taught about in our schools. Nothing more and nothing less.

7.Other than Indian mythology, are you interested in foreign mythologies like Greek or Chinese mythologies?

A story is real, whether they are Indian or otherwise. However, my writing is deeply moored to my growing up and culture. I do not write for the sake of becoming famous, though I won't complain if I become so in the process. Greek and Chinese mythologies may be having great meaning for their culture or like good stories, for humanity as a whole. I have no knowledge about them, other than peripheral acquaintance. When I write, I am not appealing to the western mind, nor I am looking at a western market. My writing is about our culture and our people. If it finds an appeal with western audience, they are welcome. If it does not, it does not matter.

8.Did you always wanted to become a writer?

My sister Chandrika is an astrologer. If you have read my books, you may be knowing that I am very critical of superstitions and try to bring rationality to thoughts. I am an Engineer by training and work in a public sector for a living. When I had started my research for my book Asura, she had predicted that if I am able to complete it, it would be a great success. I laughed at the idea. Those were the days when books got sold if it had the name of great authors like Amitav Ghosh or Arundhathi Roy, because of their talent in writing or they got sold if it had names like Chetan Bhagat written on it, for his deep understanding of what average reader wants and deliver it, packed in off the cuff humour. This was much before Shiva Trilogy had come to the market and changed the game. So, the idea of any one wanting to read about a few Asuras who may have been dead at least three thousand years ago in itself was preposterous. Even now, I do not admit to my sister about her prediction, but I think may be subconsciously, that prediction might have encouraged me to toil on in my writing and research when there was no possibility of it getting even published.

9.Who do you feel is your greatest critic?

My wife Aparna. Behind every man who is even moderately successful, there is a woman who keeps telling him you are not, at least not yet.

10.With 'Asura' you have acquired quite a fan following. Would you like to give a message to them?

Without your support, encouragement and criticism, I would not have had the courage to come up with another book within an year.

Asura is in the crossword popular award final list of five. The competition is tough, with big names of Industry like Amish, Aswhin Sanghi, Ravi Subramanian and Anuja Chauhan in the list. I request all of you to give the vanquished a chance. Please vote for Asura and please post the same in your blog/ fb/ twitter by spreading the message. Here is the link: http://goo.gl/nVkgS6

Guys, if you enjoyed 'Asura', do vote for it. And I wish the author all the very best for his upcoming novel 'Ajaya'. I would also like to thank the author for taking out time to answer my questions. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review #2: Arjuna-Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

Name:           Arjuna-Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince
Author:          Anuja Chandramouli
No. of Pages: 363
Genre:           Mythological fiction
Publisher:      Platinum Press (An imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)
Price:            Rs. 250/-
Published in:  2013

The blurb of the book says: Arjuna is the immortal tale of one of India's greatest heroes. These pages retell in riveting detail the story of the Pandava Warrior-Prince who has captured the imagination of millions across centuries. This is the intense and human story of his loves, friendship, ambitions, weaknesses and follies, as well as his untimely death and revival, his stint as a eunuch, and the innermost reaches of his thoughts. Told in a refreshingly modern and humourous style and set against the staggering backdrop of the Mahabharata. Arjunas story appeals equally to the average, discerning reader and the scholar. It spans the epic journey from before his birth, when omens foretold his greatness, across the fabled, wondrous landscape that was his life.

About the author: Anuja Chandramouli is a full-time mother of two lovely girls, as well as a part-time writer. Her academic credentials include a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s in English.Having started out as a freelance writer with articles published in Women’s Era, Lonely Planet and The Hindu, she currently works as an e-reporter and columnist. Anuja is a self-confessed, big-dreamer, who is driven by an inner passion to contribute her mite to the great pool of human endeavour, thought, and wisdom. An ardent admirer of Veda Vyasa’s Mahabharata, Anuja holds the Great Epic to be one of a kind, the Homers and Virgils of the world notwithstanding. Drawing her creative inspiration from the epic’s timeless track record of sustenance through centuries of retelling, Anuja chose to debut as a storyteller with the immortal and eternally captivating saga of Arjuna, the non pareil hero. Putting together episodes from Arjuna’s life (some well known, others relatively obscure), gleaned through years of painstaking research and then presented in a seamless narrative with the uninhibited panache and style of a 21st century writer, has been an immensely satisfying and self-actualising endeavour for this New Age Indian classicist. 

You can checkout her blog to know more. 

Even though I am a ardent lover of books based on mythology and history, I did not like this book. I did not find the writing style engrossing or engaging. I felt as if I am just reading facts or a mythological story book for kids. Moreover, the book was plain Mahabharata  and nothing entirely about Arjuna as the title of the book promised.

The book started with Janamejaya, son of Parikshit (Arjuna's grandson) yearning to know about his ancestors especially Arjuna and asks Ved Vyasa to narrate their story to him. And Vyasa's disciple Vaishampayana narrates the story to Janamejaya. But surprisingly Janamejaya is not mentioned in the end, what he felt after listening to the narration, his reactions, nothing. So I think it was better not to mention the poor fellow in the beginning at all.

May be I was expecting something else from the book. From the title and blurb, I thought that the story would start from Arjuna and end with him or may be from his point of view. But it was not all so.

In a nutshell, I was pretty disappointed. I would give the "Arjuna" only 2 on a scale of 5.

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