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Archive for the ‘Teen Adventure’ Category


India 2050
Ramgopala Agarwala | Sage | Rs 995

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.27.03 PMAccording to economist Ramgopala Agarwala, India needs to adopt ‘neo-Swadeshi’ model of development to emerge as world leader by 2050. At the moment, he warns, by blindly aping the West we are in danger of walking into a ‘middle-income trap’ that America is facing. This trap comes with attendant ills – inequality, corruption, corporate power and the like. Agarwala proposes an economic solution where Gandhi’s principles of moral and frugal living are married to ‘Adam Smithian mechanism’. This, he says, is the best roadmap for India. We reckon, the PM, may want to read this.

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The Dead Men Stood Together
Chris Priestley | Bloomsbury | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.27.43 PMChris Priestly is an English cartoonist and writer. Ghost stories fascinate him. In this book he retells the story of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” with a contemporary twist. It’s a short story that has been converted into a novella. A young boy goes to sea with his mysterious mariner uncle, believing he is sailing in his late father’s memory. But the voyage is damned by curse when the ship enters treacherous landscape of ice. Priestly has been described as a master “of contemporary macabre”. The book is aimed at young adults.

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She & Me
Bhawarlal H.Jain | Rupa | Rs 195

Originally published in Marathi as “Ti an Mi”, Bhawarlal. H Jain’s memoir is a story about a successful marriage and entrepreneurship of a small time kersone oil trader who rose to become a successful businessman. “It is also a story about then and now, when large joint families were the norm and when family values, traditional and cultural principles were still respected and followed,” the book’s blurb informs us. Jain is the founder of Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd that supplies micro-irrigation solutions to farmers. This book, we are informed, is also available in Hindi.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 11 January 2015.)

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Bloodline Bandra
Godfrey Joseph Pereira | Harper Collins | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.16.17 PMThis is a story that belongs to late-1980s. A time when Bandra was a village populated with ‘Cat-licks’ who spoke a quaint version of ‘bleddy’ English. “I wanted to capture the sarcasm, the humour, the double entendre, the innuendo…its bloody brilliant,” writes Pereira. But this is only one part of the novel. The second part, details the ‘legal slavery’ of Indians working in New York. “Part II is a searing scream of anguish…of the Indians whose voices have been castrated by other Indians,” says Pereira. Honestly told, it’s a book that will thrill and chill you.

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Beauty At Your Fingertips
Dr Nirmala Shetty | Westland | Rs 295

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.16.54 PMThe back flap tells us that Dr Nirmala Shetty is a renowned naturopath and that she has ‘officially’ attended to Miss India International and Miss India World contestants. Flip the book. Search acne. Adolescents should not burst pimples, says Shetty. “They should also avoid shellfish, prawns, cashew nuts, iodized salt, coffee, tea and sugar.” That’s quite a strange statement to make for teenagers. But then, Dr Shetty, we are assured, knows what she’s writing about. Her cure for acne includes Neem and mint leaves! What’s new about this ageless home recipe?

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Whisper the Dead
Alyxandra Harvey | Bloomsbury | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.17.11 PMSecond book in the Lovegrove series introduces the reader to Gretchen, one of the three witches in Mayfair, London. Gretchen is a whisperer, a girl who can hear other witches in her head. Sometimes they make so much noise that her ears start to bleed. Gretchen, Emma and Penelope – are the three cousins whose job is to keep the terrible Greymalkin Sisters from rising again. In the first book, ‘Breath of Frost’, Emma had them bottled. She was the star of the story. Now Gretchen has to avert the doom. Fun read.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 4 January 2015.)

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Black Bread White Beer
Niven Govinden | Fourth Estate, Harper Collins | Rs 350

Hanif Khureshi told the story of his generation. Govinden hits on his. In My Beautiful Launderette written in 1985 Khureshi tackled race in a tactful and humorous way. Years down the line Govinden sees no humour. In Black Bread White Beer, his loathing and empathy for the other is almost Roth-like in its embrace “… lippy girls who told him he never did anything right, until he got out his credit card”. An unnerving novel that deserves to be read by anyone interested in race relations in modern day England, told from a perspective of a second generation Indian who is, to put it simply, rabidly honest.

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The Thread
Victoria Hislop | Headline Review | Rs 350

Set against the backdrop of the Mediterranean, The Thread, tells the story of three generations of an orthodox Greek family settled in Thessaloniki after the break out of the Greek civil war in the 1940s. Thessaloniki, says the writer, was a city where “an even mixture of Christians, Jews and Muslims lived”. Three decades later there were only Christians. There is more. Through the decades of upheaval the city served as a concentration camp where the Communists and other radicals were jailed and tortured. This is their story. Her first book, The Island, created ripples both in England and Greece in 2005.

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The Accused
John Grisham | Hodder | Rs 250

Anyone expecting a typical Grisham legal thriller is in for a shock. This is not it. The Accused – a part of the Theodore Boone series – tells a story of a teenager who’s accused of a crime he does not commit. The blurb on the flap bills him as a boy who ‘who knows more than most adult lawyers’. Exciting you could say, particularly for young adults brought up on Harry Potter.  Only there is no death- defying thrill of adventure here, only lessons in law. So if you are looking for a true-blue Grisham fix, wait till fall when his adult thriller The Confession hits the stores.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 10 June 2012)

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Is it All About Hips?
Sangita Shresthova| Sage| 223 pp, Rs 450

This gem of a book takes us through a journey of Bollywood hip thrusts and gyrations in a wonderfully researched reclamation of our wicked past. It traces how in the 1940-50s Indian classical and folk dances were purged of their erotic content to uphold middle class ideal of well-behaved, sexually contained female to its adaptation by the Hindi film directors that laid no claim to such notions. The 1950s Vyjayanthimala’s footwork and Shammi Kapoor’s rock-n-roll shimmy gave way to the 60s hip thrust of Helen the Vamp, the 70s Big B strut and courtesan twirls and bosom heave gave way to 80s brazen disco numbers, and the 90s Shyamak Davar’s fit bodied athleticism and girlie chic took Indian Bollywood dance to the global stage. Hips don’t lie – voyeur in us knows that. While Shresthova tells the story well, one does not understand why Kabir Bedi – India’s non-dancing hero – was roped in to write the forward.

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Chapter Eleven
Amit Shankar| Vitasa – Times Group Books| 361 pp, Rs 495

The literary herd may flog Chetan Bhagat for his pedestrian English, but it has no problem bedding his rose-tainted IIM view of changing India. In fact, the success of the film 3 Idiots proves that Bhagat’s schmaltzy coming of age stories fit the Shining India narrative like a glove. In his imaging of modernity, small town aspirations are finding hope and meaning in Gurgaon’s glass towers abuzz with Blackberries, shiny laptops and disposable incomes. ‘Chapter Eleven’ shatters Bhagat’s corporate idyll. Here the protagonist is catapulted from a morally rigid, small town feudal cesspool to the global schlock of B2B and B2C competition, shrinking market and recession. Shanker sums it up for young India, “I assumed that I will learn, work, grow. But then I realised that I was learning…to cheat and fool people.”

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The Moonstone Legacy
Diane De Gunzburg & Tony Wild| Hachette India| 265 pp, Rs 250

This teenage adventure book comes with a recommendation from writer, William Dalrymple, emblazoned on the cover. It’s “most ingenious and imaginative” it says. One finds it hard to digest that an Indianised Enid Blyton-like tale would attract such effusive praise. The reason for this effusiveness lies in the genetics and history of the writers. Gunzburg’s is the daughter of a Pathan from NW Provinces, where we are told he still toils the land. Mother is from Yorkshire. Tony Wild’s family, in turn, made their fortune from Indian tea. The story of this book takes off from the Wilkie Collins’ classic, The Moonstone published in 1868 in England. Ingenious and imaginative, did you say?

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 27 November 2011)

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RumiA New Translation
By Farrukh Dhondy |Harper Perennial | 165 pp, Rs 299

After Prof Arvind Krishna Mehtrotra’s seminal translation of Kabir’s poems and Ranjit Haskote’s mystical rendition of Lal Ded, comes Farrukh Dhondy with a clutch of Rumi verse. This small book apart from Jalaluddin Rumi’s couplets also packs an introduction to the Sufi saint’s life and work, a personal note from the translator and a Q&A. Dhondy says he was tempted to translate Rumi after reading a trashy translation on flight to Australia. “I looked for other versions. They all seemed to be written by new age spiritual freaks who took Rumi to be endorsing some mixed-metaphoric burden of wistful romance.” In Dhondy’s rendition, Rumi’s off the cuff ruminations are shaped as much by reason as by rhyme, word or meter. Each line, delightful and each couplet, telling.

He who spreads evil
 Is one who plants weeds
Don’t waste your words
Don’t sell him rose seeds.”
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Souls in Exile
The Return of Ravana Book 3

By David Hair |Penguin Young Adult| 309 pp, Rs 250

In Pyre of the Queens, the first in the Return of the Ravana series, Ravana named Ravindra Raj devised a secret ritual to acquire deadly mythical powers. In Swayamvara, the second volume, he chased Ram, who has been reborn as the great warrior, Prithviraj Chauhan. In the third volume, Souls in Exile, Abbaka Rani and Rani of Jhansi fight against Ravana to defend their kingdoms. Vikram (Ram), Rasika (Sita), Deepika and Amanjit are the super four that take on the evil demon. Everything is real yet unreal. The historical events are reproduced faithfully, as are major episodes from the epic, Ramayana. But the action takes place in modern day India – in Varanasi, Jhansi, Kannauj, Mumbai, Delhi. David Hair spins a yarn adding a twist here and there to accelerate the plot for the four super heroes. And creates a fantasy world that’s at once unbelievable and charming.

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Beijing Welcomes You
Unveiling the Capital City of the Future

by Tom Scocca| Riverhead Books| 367 pp, Rs 699

At the very onset, the writer notes that China has a lot of people. He then asks why did the International Olympic Committee grant Olympics to China? He assumes that it’s because the world wants China to join the ranks of leading nations. But isn’t it already a leader among nations? Scocca admits that as an American, he was in habit of viewing People’s Republic of China as a momentary aberration, “something that would go away if we refused to accept it.” Now, he knows better. Scocca spent four years in China, from 2004-2008 during which he wrote for Slate and the New York Observer. What he wrote finds its way into the book. As the book jacket honestly records – Beijing Welcomes You is “a broad yet close record of urban place we don’t yet fully comprehend”. In short, a bit of everything that a foreign reporter’s journal can hold.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, 23 October 2011)

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