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Fire Under Ash
Saskya Jain | Random House | Rs 499

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.34.45 PMIt’s “an audacious debut” says the PR blurb from the publishers. Is it? What’s audacious about this debut? Nothing, if you ask me. Just a PR word. Saskya Jain’s debut novel about Delhi’s rich meeting aspiring middle-class Bihar is a look at the class and regional divide that continues to scar our country. Caste makes no appearance here. Delhi, New York and Patna do. Jain’s clever use of advertorial hoardings to capture the signature tune of changing India is arresting. As is her ability to chain her characters to the architecture that surrounds them. As for the rest, she has a story and she tells it well.

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Skin Talks
Dr Jaishree Sharad | Random House | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.35.10 PM‘Skin Talks’ begins with several endorsements from the entertainment industry. The forward bears the signature of Amitabh Bachchan. The book takes you through the various regimens that help keep one’s skin healthy and beautiful. But the strongest pitch is made for Botox, fillers (hyaluronic acid) and derma lifts that are expensive and debatable. If you are the kind that relies more on skin doctors than home remedies, this book is for you. Whatever your age, skin type and characteristic, Dr Jaishree Sharad has an answer. Consult it, if you want. Risk, is yours.

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The Taste Of Words
Ed. & Transl. by Raza Mir | Penguin | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.35.21 PMIt’s a treat for poetry fans. Raza Mir, a management teacher at an American university, has put together an anthology of Urdu poems that he has translated into English. It’s a quirky collection that starts with Amir Khusro and ends with Gulzar. It includes many well-worn verses as well as some new sharp voices such as Ishrat Afreen’s:

Mera qad
Mere baap se ooncha nikla
Aur meri ma jeet gayi”

(I grew taller than my father/My mother had won.) Whether you know or don’t know Urdu, this ode to Urdu tehzeeb (culture) is going to charm you.

 

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 2 November 2014.)

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United Breaks Guitars
Dave Carrol | Hay House | Rs 299

It’s every travelling musician’s worst nightmare. How to make sure airline staff does not damage his/her expensive music instrument. In March 2008, Dave Carrol faced just that, while travelling from Canada to US on a music tour. The United Airlines ground staff mishandled his guitar case causing irreparable damage to his guitar. Of course, they refused to compensate. So Carrol did what no one had done before, he used the social media to bring the corporation to its knees. He did this by posting a video ‘United Breaks Guitars’ on youtube and proved, that at least in America, customer is always king.

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The Governor’s Wife
Mark Gimenez | Sphere | Rs 350

Gimenz opens his tale with a quote from Edna Faber’s book Giant that hits close to home. “We really stole Texas, didn’t we? I mean. Away from Mexico” she wrote. Gimez follows in the footsteps of the quote and creates a chilling politico-legal thriller in which a wife of Texas governor takes on her husband and the political establishment in an attempt to save a life of a young Mexican criminal caught in a no man’s land between Rio Grande and the US. Gimenez’s ability to replicate the vernacular idiom and slang has many readers hooked. Question now is will Gimenez upstage John Grisham? He just may.

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Wings of Silence
Shriram Iyer | Westland | Rs 199

What strikes one about this debut novel, is not the story or its terrible prose, but the depiction of a parent – in particular an authoritarian father figure who treats his grown up children as minions. Sadly, the author’s focus is on telling a story about two aspiring sportsmen. One wants to make it to Olympics, the other to the Wimbledon. What to say? Indians generally speaking, like to dream big, even if they don’t have it in them to make it to the top. Much like the author of this book who aspires to be a writer without even attempting to deliver a grammatically correct sentence.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, dated 12 August 2012)

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