Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: The Importance of Being Earnest – A Trivial Comedy for Serious People

Book Details:




Author: Oscar Wilde

Book Summary: Oscar Wilde's brilliant play makes fun of the English upper classes with light-hearted satire and dazzling humour. It is 1890's England and two young gentlemen are being somewhat limited with the truth. To inject some excitement into their lives, Mr Worthing invents a brother, Earnest, as an excuse to leave his dull country life behind him to pursue the object of his desire, the ravishing Gwendolyn. While across town Algernon Montecrieff decides to take the name Earnest, when visiting Worthing's young ward Cecily. The real fun and confusion begins when the two end up together and their deceptions are in danger of being revealed.

My Review:

This is the first of Oscar Wilde’s plays that I have read and i must say that he is brilliant! His writing is eminently quotable and he brings a sharp satire to life. Reading classics such as this makes us realize the shortcomings of today’s authors. The play has a plot of mistaken identity, but is filled with witty dialogue and laugh-out-loud moments. The sardonic humour is vastly evident with lines such as “In married life, three is company, and two is none.” and “To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

The author touches on all the themes important to the English upper class at the time, love, romance, marriage, class divide, education and vanity. It can also be easily related to the current Indian society and makes you think that despite all the advancements around us, people in essence, have not changed much.

I rate it a 5/5. This is going on my shelf as a keeper and I’m sure that I will revisit it many many times in the future! I read this as part of my 100+ Books in a Year Challenge and Historical Fiction Challenge and my endeavour to expand my reading horizons beyond romance.

Rating: 5/5

Review: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Book Details:





Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Publisher: Back Bay Books (January, 2002)

Book Summary: “The Tipping Point” is the biography of an idea, and the idea is quite simple: that many of the problems we face - from murder to teenage delinquency to traffic jams - behave like epidemics. They aren’t linear phenomena in the sense that they steadily and predictably change according to the level of effort brought to bear against them. They are capable of sudden and dramatic changes in direction.

Years of well-intentioned intervention may have no impact at all, yet the right intervention - at just the right time - can start a cascade of change. Many of the social ills that face us today, in other words, are as inherently volatile as the epidemics that periodically sweep through the human population: little things can cause them to “tip” at any time and if we want to understand how to confront and solve them we have to understand what those “tipping points” are. In this study, Malcolm Gladwell explores the ramifications of this.

Not simply for politicians and policy-makers, his method provides a way of viewing everyday experience and seeking to enable us to develop strategies for everything from raising a child to running a company.

My Review:

The Tipping Point is an academic book explaining the reasons for certain behaviours such as teenage smoking and fashion. I really liked the way the author manages to put his point across in a clear, concise and easy to understand manner. The book is not dry reading like most academic books, Gladwells writing being crisp and entertaining. He introduces his concepts in a well analyzed manner and you can follow his thought process as you read. The concepts started clicking as I read and I could easily connect them with the previously explained concepts. The book is easy to follow as Gladwell explains his studies using examples such as fashion and crime rates, making it easy for the layman to follow. The book focuses on three main concepts; a) The Law of the Few, b) The Stickiness Factor and c) The Power of Context. All the three concepts are well explained.

What I didn’t like about the book was that there was a lot of repetitiveness, with concepts and examples explained again and again, and at some places the author has given a lot of emphasis on certain examples like the teenage smoking phenomena. Also, the book does not tell you how to translate the concepts into real time ideas. It will help you analyze past epidemics but shows no roadmap to create epidemics of your own. All in all it was a great read and will be especially useful to marketing professionals.

I rate it 4/5 and I will definitely recommend it to others. I read this as a part of my 100+ Books in a Year Challenge.


Rating: 4/5

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: When Someone Loves You (Darley Series, #2)

 Book Details:

Author: Susan Johnson                 Publisher: Brava (2006)

Book Summary: It was common gossip that "Duff" D'Abernon, Marquis of Darley, had returned from Waterloo a changed man. Gone was the reckless youth and in his place was a sullen recluse more interested in tending his horses than attending balls. But now the Marquis was entering the game again, openly flirting with the beautiful, witty, and thoroughly disreputable Annabelle Foster. Annabelle's no stranger to scandal. The actress-playwright is rumoured to have had liaisons with any number of powerful men, with an illegitimate daughter to show for it. She won't chance heartache again, even for a man as tempting as Duff D'Abernon. What she offers instead is a compromise: a true friendship between equals. Each agrees to the terms. A bargain is struck. And an idyllic summer begins. But what starts as friendship soon blossoms into searing passion. And the only thing worse than risking their hearts is not risking them at all...

My Review:
I am new to reading Susan Johnson, having read just one contemporary romance, Hot Pink, by her. I had liked the really hot bedroom scenes in Hot Pink, she being one of the few who don’t give the written version of the Bollywood favorite shots of fans, and flowers to depict bedroom scenes, or the romance writer descriptions of rapture and paradise. I picked up When Someone Loves you on impulse, thinking that the romance between an actress and a viscount set in 1800 England was bound to be interesting.

The story, while good, is nothing new to historical romance readers or any romance reader for that matter. The characters though seem two dimensional and the writing and the confusing dialogue fail to bring the plot together. The historical bits seem to have been added in as an afterthought and don’t really seem as part of the story. The two protagonists are instantly attracted to each other and are open to “being” with each other. Both don’t want to marry and value their independence, not unlike any modern romance. Nothing much seems to happen in the first half, while the second half is filled with one situation after the other, all of which seem to get resolved rather quickly and neatly. The author's attempt to flesh out the story and create depth by adding conflicts just make the plot go every which way. I was not even convinced that both the hero and the heroine really are in love, rather than just lust! The book has the signature Susan Johnson hot bedroom scenes though. All in all it is an OK read, if you have nothing more interesting on your shelves. Definitely not a keeper.

This was the second book in the series; I will try and read the first one, Someone to Love, the story of Duff’s parents.

I rate it as 2/5 as it was largely forgettable. I read this as a part of my 100 e-books Challenge, Historical Fiction ChallengeHistorical Romance Challenge and 100+ Books in a Year Challenge
Rating: 2/5

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: The Return of Rafe Mackade (The Mackade Brothers # 1)


Book Details:

Author: Nora RobertsPublisher: Silhouette (1995)

Book Summary:THE TOWN WAS BUZZING OVER RAFE's RETURN...

Some said there would be trouble. Bound to be. Trouble hung around Rafe MacKade like a bell around a bull's neck. Oh, he was as handsome as ever, with those devil's good looks the MacKades were gifted -- or cursed -- with. If a female had breath in her body, she couldn't help but look twice at that loose-legged stride that seemed to dare anyone to get in the way.

And what about that newcomer, Regan Bishop? Pretty as a picture, but a little prim. Would she be impervious to the legendary MacKade charm?

Sure didn't look that way....



My Review:

This is a Nora Roberts book. She is one of my favourite authors, who manage to infuse a feeling of community, warmth and humour in every one of her books. I would love to know where Ms. Roberts finds such idyllic towns and such delicious men! Rafe Mackade is just that... delicious… He is a typical male HERO... tall, dark, handsome and brooding. What I didn't like was that he was so angry all the time, but no one seems to know why. Maybe 'all will be revealed' in the remaining books of the series. The book is the standard Silhouette romance, nothing extraordinary. But, despite it being a formula story, it has that Nora Roberts quality which sets her books apart. She is not one of the most prolific writers of our generation for nothing. All in all it is a good read for a lazy afternoon.

This is the first instalment of the Mackade Brothers and I can't wait to get to the remaining three.

 
I rate it 3/5. I read this as a part of my 100 e-books Challenge, 1st in a Series Challenge, and 100+ Books in a Year Challenge.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Johnny Gone Down


Book Details:


 Author: Karan Bajaj
Publisher: Harper Collins (April 2010)

Book Summary:
Nikhil Arya has fallen.

Once, he was an Ivy League scholar with a promising future at NASA; now, at forty, he is broke, homeless, and minutes away from blowing his brains out in a diabolical modern-day joust.
It wasn't meant to be this way. unbelievable An innocent vacation turned into an epic intercontinental journey that saw Nikhil become first a genocide survivor, then a Buddhist monk, a drug lord, a homeless accountant, a software mogul and a deadly game fighter. Now, twenty years later, Nikhil aka Johnny is tired of running. With the Colombian mafia on his trail and his abandoned wife and son ten thousand miles away, he prepares for his final act, aware that he will have lost even if he wins.

Or will he? Is there any greater victory than living a life that knows no limits, a world that has seen no boundaries?

 
Review:
 I had read the summary of this book and was intrigued by it. So, when a friend had it on his bookshelf, I grabbed it. Here's my review.

The book charts the fantastic journey of Nikhil Arya, who goes from being an MIT grad to a deadly game fighter. The author has granted Nikhil with almost bizarre luck and cat-like nine lives. He constantly falls into unbelievable situations, and easily manages to come out of them unscathed and successful. The story is told in flashback mode, starting in 1975, with Sam, Nikhil's langotiya yaar, convincing him to take a vacation in Cambodia. Nikhil, despite his misgivings goes along with the plan without checking the current affairs. (Unbelievable situation No. 1: they are MIT grads… you expect us to believe this can really happen!) Anyway, what follows is Nikhil's bout with heroism after which he becomes a genocide victim who manages to escape Pol Pot. He falls into Buddhism (easily) and then takes up company with a drug lord (Shantaram anyone?), sets up a human version of Farmville and then, giving it all up, decides to end his life(huh??)!


What I liked about the book was that it was a very easy read. It was almost like watching a masala Bollywood movie. There is thrill, tragedy, romance, drama… add in a loyal best friend and exotic foreign locations and you have a blockbuster on your hands! The author comes across as highly influenced by Gregory Roberts' Shantaram, and makes sure that the book will appeal to an international audience. His writing style is fast paced and crisp. However, there are certain parts which are repetitive such as the Karma Yogi philosophy. It is the main theme, but doesn't need to be put in your face every time. Also, like I said, most of the story seems unbelievable and the ending didn't live up to the rest of the book.


All in all a decent read nothing extraordinary. I rate it 3/5. Ideally it would be a 2.5/5 but the 0.5 additional rating is due to the cool cover and the absolutely low price (Rs. 60).

 
Rating: 3/5

Book Review: The Lost Duke of Wyndham



Book Summary:
Highwayman Jack Audley has never wanted to be responsible for an ancient heritage and the livelihood of others. But when he is recognized as the long-lost son of the House of Wyndham, his carefree life is over. If his birth proves to be legitimate, Jack will find himself with the one title he has never wanted: Duke of Wyndham. Original.


Jack Audley has been a highwayman.


A soldier. And he has "always" been a rogue. What he is not, and never wanted to be, is a peer of the realm, responsible for an ancient heritage and the livelihood of hundreds. But when he is recognized as the long-lost son of the House of Wyndham, his carefree life is over. And if his birth proves to be legitimate, then he will find himself with the one title he never wanted: Duke of Wyndham.
Grace Eversleigh has spent the last five years toiling as the companion to the dowager Duchess of Wyndham. It is a thankless job, with very little break from the routine… until Jack Audley lands in her life, all rakish smiles and debonair charm. He is not a man who takes no for an answer, and when she is in his arms, she's not a woman who wants to say no. But if he is the true duke, then he is the one man she can never have…


Review: This book is the first part of a two part series and is paired with Mr. Cavendish, I Presume… The book starts off with on an interesting note, with the hero, retired soldier-turned highwayman, Jack Audley, trying to rob the dowager Duchess of Wyndham and her companion Grace Eversleigh. However, what follows is a little fantastic (even for a historical romance). The dowager recognizes Jack as her long-lost grandson at first encounter itself, simply by observing his charm and seeing the top half of his face (the bottom half is covered by a mask). She gives him a ring which belonged to his father as proof. Of course Jack recognizes the ring, and of course, he is the true Duke (it IS a romance after all!). The duchess then goes on to kidnap him the next day (easily) and brings him to her castle to restore him to his rightful position as the Duke of Wyndham, displacing the current Duke, Thomas, who she dislikes for some reason (though I don't know why, he seems perfect!). In the midst of all this, there is that instant attraction between him and the heroine Grace Eversleigh.


Grace is shown as a calm and collected woman, who is in control of her emotions. The author has gone so far with the character that the heroine comes across as spineless, timid and uninteresting. She takes a lot of nonsense from the Duchess to whom she feels indebted to for rescuing her from an unpleasant situation with her cousin. She is also torn between her loyalty to Thomas and her growing attraction to Jack. There is a friendship between her and Thomas and at one point I had hopes that the story will take a twist with Grace or Thomas acting on the attraction... But, sadly the author stuck to her formula and led the heroine unerringly to Jack.


Whereas this is all standard fare, what sets this story apart from other Julia Quinn books (most of which I thoroughly enjoy) is that the hero is not very convincing. Despite his protestations, he just goes along with the dowager's plans. The heroine is like one in a Bollywood movie, perpetually confused… she loves Jack but can't decide if she wants him to be a Duke or not...The most interesting character of the novel turns out to be Thomas. He displays true Hero quality and steps down when Jack's legitimacy is proven and also his relationship with his long-term fiancée Amelia is intriguing.


The book has the expected Julia Quinn charm and humor, but doesn't have that LOL quality exhibited by her previous books. There are times of great humor but, most of Jack's dealings with the dowager, though sometimes funny, often fall flat. It would be great if she had also come back with some snappy reply. But, that would not do as she is portrayed of the bitchy grandmom (à la Lalita Pawar) who has lost her sense of humor. It almost seemed as if the author had drawn up a list of qualities for each of her character and has not allowed them to stray from the script. The characters (except Thomas) almost feel one-dimensional, either black or white, with very little room for grey... I would have loved some wickedness in the novel, with some characters actually behaving out of character. Alas, that does not happen…


The novel ends predictably with Jack, despite his lack of skills, becomes the Duke, and is hugely successful at it. Grace, doing credit to her name, visits the bitchy dowager, even though she doesn't have to... And they live happily ever after…


All in all a good read, but not memorable. I rate this one as 3 as I enjoyed reading it and am definitely looking forward to reading the second part of the series, Mr. Cavendish, I Presume… I can't wait to see what happens to Thomas!


Rating: 3/5
I read this as a part of my 100 e-books Challenge, Historical Romance Challenge, 1st in a Series Challenge, Historical Fiction Challenge and 100+ Books in a Year Challenge (Almost all of them! Good choice!).


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Challenges – The 2011 E-Book Reading Challenge


The 2011 E-Book Reading Challenge: Level Fanatical: Read 75 e-books
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2) Rebellious Desire – Julie Garwood
6) A Dog’s Tale – Mark Twain
8) The Pride of Jared MacKade –Nora Roberts
9) Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
10) Double Standards - Judith McNaught
11) The Perfect Neighbour (MacGregors #11) - Nora Roberts
12) Mr Cavendish, I Presume - Julia Quinn
13)
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23)
24)
25)

8 / 75 (10.67%)


Challenges - Historical Fiction Challenge 2011


Historical Fiction Challenge 2011: Level Serious Bookaholism: 20 Historical Fiction Books

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2) Rebellious Desire – Julie Garwood
3) 

4) 

5) A Dog’s Tale – Mark Twain


6 / 20 (30.00%)


Challenges - The Historical Romance Challenge


The Historical Romance Challenge: Read and Review 12 Historical Romances (there is also a giveaway)

2)Rebellious Desire – Julie Garwood
5)
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4 / 6 (66.67%)

Challenges – The Shakespeare Reading Challenge 2011


The Shakespeare Reading Challenge: Puck Level: Read 4 plays over the year, 1 of which may be replaced by a performance

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1)

2)

3)

4)

0 / 4 (0.00%)

Challenges – The 100+ Reading Challenge 2011


The 100+ Reading Challenge 2011: To read 100 or more books in 2011

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2) Rebellious Desire – Julie Garwood
7) A Dog’s Tale – Mark Twain
9) The Pride of Jared MacKade –Nora Roberts
10) 
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12)
13)
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15)
16)
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9 / 100 (9.00%)

Why is Baba Ramdev more successful than Mickey Mehta

Sitting on the couch today morning, I was surfing the television and came across a fitness programme featuring Mickey Mehta, “Reebok Easytone Fit in Fifteen” on Zoom. I paused in my surfing, seeing Mickey, who brings back memories of the long ago summer swimming sessions at Sea Princess, where he used to lead the warm-up sessions. He was all the rage 10-15 years ago, famous as the 'Fitness Trainer to the Miss India’s'. However, as time passed, he was taken over by the increasing band of celebrity trainers, each with their own philosophy.

This show, like many others claims to make you fit by doing simple exercises for just 15 mins a day (how I wish it was true!). Mickey and his super fit assistant (in the standard fitness video garb of tank top and fitting shorts) started off with an introduction to their unique fitness programme aimed at different types of women, from the overworked house-wife to the obese and unfit college student. After the 2 min gyaan session on how following Mickey’s easy-peasy session for just 15 mins a day can make you fit, (this cropped up at least 15 times during the show! We got it the first time!!), we now had a demonstration involving six super-fit models with rippling abs.

“Come, join us in exercising” Mickey seemed to say, “Just 15 mins can make you fit”

All the fit assistants in their shiny new Reeboks nodded.

“But how do I join you?” I asked, “By the time I get up from my couch and put on my shoes and lay down my exercise mat, it will be 15 mins! And I can’t even dress like her!” I said pointing to the pretty girl in the tight tank top and shorts.

“Come”, Mickey said again, “the exercises are very simple”

“Show me some,” I said.

He immediately asked his assistant to demonstrate... She stood, and bent to touch her toes.

“Isn’t this easy?” Mickey asked his assistant. She frantically nodded.

I gasped in horror! “You expect me to get up and touch my toes!! I can barely reach my knees”

“She can do it” Mickey seemed to say

“But she is so fit! She has real abs!” I protested, “whereas I ....”

Now, this is where such shows astound me. I find it pointless to see fit girls and try to emulate them. I don’t know why such shows have never hit upon an idea to show normal men or women who really need to do those exercises. It seems stupid to believe a super fit chick when she says that the exercises are easy and will make you fit. I mean obviously, she didn’t get fit by doing simple stretches for just 15 mins a day!

“Come”, he tried to convince me again, “the exercises are very simple”

Scared by an insistent Mickey and the maniacally smiling assistant, I immediately switched the channel to Baba Ramdev who simply asked me to breathe...

This is where Baba Ramdev succeeds beautifully. He keeps the demonstration to himself and just asks you to switch on the TV and sit in your PJs (barefoot) and pant. Plus the video always pans to the poor audience in the background who is struggling like you to follow Baba’s contortions. This at least motivates you to struggle with them rather than sit and watch the pretty girls bend and twist! (Though my husband certainly seems to enjoy the eye candy!)

“Surely I can manage this!” I thought seeing Baba. And started panting.....

Challenges

This post is a round-up of the reading challenges I have decided to particpate in this year. I have signed up for six challenges (so far.. trying really hard not to over commit). I think of this as a super easy New Year's Reading Resolution This post is a round-up of all the challenges and to help me keep track of my goals. Most of these challenges tie-in well with my goal to read and review at least 100 books in this year. I have also gone for challenges which will help me broaden my reading horizons (as mentioned in the previous post).

My Challenges for 2011 are, (click on the images to go to the sign-up pages)



The 100+ Reading Challenge 2011: To read 100 or more books in 2011

 


The Shakespeare Reading Challenge: Puck Level: Read 4 plays over the year, 1 of which may be replaced by a performance


The 2011 E-Book Reading Challenge: Level Fanatical: Read 75 e-books
 


1st In a Series Reading Challenge 2011: Level Series Lover: Read 6 books that are the first in any series 



The Historical Romance Challenge: Read and Review 12 Historical Romances (there is also a giveaway)




Historical Fiction Challenge 2011: Level Serious Bookaholism: 20 Historical Fiction Books



Lets hope I have not gone overboard with them and can finish some :)

Wish Me Luck!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My First Post!

Once upon a time, I was a compulsive reader and a writer. Over time, I kept on reading, but forgot to write about what I read. So, with my husband pushing and prodding me to start writing a blog, I thought it was time I put my thoughts out for all to see. So, with great trepidation, I am now posting my first post!

I discovered the wonderful world of “story-books” (as my very correct Gujju parents call them), when I was in the third grade and I have just not looked back. The obsession grew and grew till a time came that I was in danger of failing in science and math (the books were too boring.. loved history and lit though) coz I just didn’t want to come out of my world of Nancy Drew, Enid Blyton (I still read her sometimes) and Sweet Valleys… However, with time I have learned to reign in my curiosity about what happens next and now on most days I can wait till I am out of office to pull my book out to read on.

I read almost everything available, but I am totally addicted to chicklit and romance novels, especially historical romance (yes, yes I have read all the ones with Fabio on the cover.. what can I say, it has happened to all of us sometime!). This came to be after a long phase of reading Mills&Boon, which was interspersed by times like when I finished the entire Sidney Sheldon series one summer, then started on John Grisham… you can guess the list…

Fast forward to the present: I still read historical romances and chicklit, but I’m trying to fill in some gaps by expanding my reading to classics, business books, Booker Prize winners, Man Booker winners and such. To help me with this, I have signed on to a few challenges online, like The Shakespeare Challenge.

So, here I am, all set to expand my horizons and write my opinions on books which I manage to read over the year. Hope you enjoy reading about my bibliophilic quest!