Tag Archives: hachette

Book Review: The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg Title: The Middlesteins
Author: Jami Attenberg
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4555-0721-4
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 274
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I guess every family is dysfunctional and deals with their problems in their own way. Maybe that is what makes families what they are – the one support system you cannot do without, irrespective of the size of the family. These thoughts and more crossed my mind as I finished reading my last read of January – “The Middlesteins” by Jami Attenberg.

On the surface, the book is about a morbidly obese woman Edie Middlestein, who has been advised by the doctors to either lose weight or die and her family coming together to save her. On the other, it is about failed relationships and the cracks that appear sooner than we know and how life has the ability to never let things go the way we want them to. Edie and Richard have had a wonderful American suburban life for over thirty decades with their kids – Robin and Benny, a nice house, a great job and everything seems rosy, except for Edie’s eating disorder. Richard leaves Edie and then it falls on the kids and Benny’s wife Rachelle to get things in order, for almost to save Edie.

At the heart of the book, there are always so many questions gnawing the reader’s mind: Why did Edie eat the way she did? Didn’t she know the implications? Why did Richard leave her? Also, what I found most intriguing in the book was the way their religion (Jewishness) is inter-connected beautifully in the book, without overtaking it. The Middlesteins has been written very well and that is what kept me turning the pages. The writing is wonderfully structured and goes back and forth in time to explain the things Edie and the rest of the family does. Of course the more traditional elements of every dysfunctional family are brought out excellently, so I could also somewhere see parts of my family there – the sort of inane connect a reader has with a book. Read it if the idea of something dysfunctional and full of some dry humour captures your interest and attention.

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Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Headline Review, Hachette India
ISBN: 978-0-7553-8403-7
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 215
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Do you believe in love at first sight? And does love at first sight happens because of collective circumstances that lead to it? The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a book as the title says, quite what it is – love and the chances of it at first sight.

When Hadley misses her flight to London by four minutes, she never expects to meet Oliver – someone she instantly connects with, someone who has his own set of problems and so does she, and it is quite interesting to see how they solve their own problems, one by one, over the course of one day.

The book is a young adult romance so to say and yet it is written with so much maturity on so many levels. I could relate to Hadley in so many ways when I was seventeen – the same anxiety, fears and worry about the future. Hadley has had an estranged relationship with her father. She is on her way to London from New York to attend her father’s second marriage and does not know how to react to it.

Oliver on the other hand, has his own life which he doesn’t share initially but the layers are soon peeled and reality sinks in. The reality that when they are done with the journey and land in London, (they are seated next to each other 18A and 18B for seven hours on the flight) what will become of their friendship/relationship. Will they meet again? What does life have in store for them, if it does for the two of them together?

I found the book a sweet read. There were no mushy romantic moments and I liked that. The book in that case does not get boring. Jennifer E. Smith knows the craft of writing for young adults. It is not the typical romance novel, and that’s why it worked well for me.

Jennifer writes with a quick pace. She doesn’t make the reader wait for things to unfurl. She knows that the reader expects this and this is what needs to be given. The ending worked very well for me. It is sweet for almost all characters and a little fluffy. The book makes you want to travel, because at the end who knows what might happen on an airplane ride to two strangers. To read something light without it being too mushy, you must pick up this book.

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An Interview with Nelofar Currimbhoy

I had the good fortune of interviewing Nelofar Currimbhoy after reading her book, “Flame” based on her Mother Shahnaz Husain’s life. Here is the interview for you to enjoy.

1. Why write a biography? Why not a story may be or something fictional?

Writing for me has been a passion as far as I can think back. I once wrote a 60 page poem ‘Eyes of the Healer’ and got it read by Darley Anderson , the well known British agent. He wrote back to say that , there was no doubt that there was talent but I should write prose because it was salable. Somehow the salability aspect of writing seemed like sacrilege and I still love my poetry. Why not a fiction ? Well I guess sometimes things take a life of their own. My mother and I happened to be at Barista when my she went to the little book shop they had started and came back with a copy of Gulzar’s biography by his daughter. When I opened it, it said ‘Promise me , you will write a book on me.’ For years she had been the audience for my writing and was convinced that I was the best person to write her story. I have written twelve thousand words of my first fiction novel and I am very excited about it. It’s an exotic romance, a saga. Ideally it should have come before the biography because it would keep the focus on my writing and not the subject. On the other hand the response from serious readers to the quality of my writing has given me -a first time writer- a thumbs up that’s propelled my enthusiasm a great deal. Many books to come from this pen, or should I say computer.

2. What inspired you to write this book?

My mothers life , in fact her ability to defy life and change every negative event that came her way into a challenge that had to be overcome was the sort of inspirational story that had to be told. I see this book as a self help book in the form of a life story that will inspire and encourage those that read it. Many women and men too will identify with it. Struggle is not gender specific and we all dream of success and fame. Here is the story of a girl born to a traditional Muslim family , married at 16 , she had her first child in the year and went on to become an iconic figure.

On the professional front her ability to stay ahead of her competition without advertising, her faith in the all Indian Dream of Ayurveda as a way of life and her astute and instinctive decision to market this science at a time when it was taken as outdated and old fashioned will make this book an interesting read for every dreamer who dares to dream the almost impossible.

I have walked her journey with her, and seen her life unfold like a saga of a story book and all I can say is that this story was worth telling.

3. Beauty is only skin-deep. Is that true? Do you believe in it?

Not at all. It starts with the heart , the goodness of soul shows in the eyes. A good nights sleep and a diet of fruits shows on the skin much more than any beauty product can. A beauty routine is a good addition to a healthy life style and above all a mind at peace.

4. How much of an inspiration has Shahnaz Husain been to you? If you had to name 3 character traits that you would want of hers, which ones would they be?

I have always maintained that no two people can be as different as my mum and me. She is fiery and passionate , I am calm and serene , she works best around a lot of people and noise , I am methodical and enjoy my space. Yet I have indeed been inspired by her in many . Her family values and her ability to find self expression without undermining the importance of her marriage is something I respect and endorse for all people. It is an aspect that is going to become more relevant by the day when the pressure of urban life is becoming oppressive and couples opt out too quickly. I would always like to hold the family values that she has taught me as sacred in my life.

Her ability to change the course of her destiny when its almost staring at her in her face and her desire to enjoy life to the level of making every moment lived a celebratory event are qualities I would love to keep for myself too.

5. How difficult is it to differentiate personal life from professional especially in a profession like yours when the borderline is too thin?

In my mothers life there is no separation between personal life and professional life. She lives and breathes her work every moment. If she is at coffee shop she is signing autographs. When she is shopping she is approached by people who want to ask her about a beauty issue. She never turns them back. I am sure she even dreams of her work.

As for me I am the other limit. I keep all media interviews away from my home. Home to me is sacred and a place for family and friends.I believe in privacy as the most essential aspect to keep my life and those near me functional. My children were never allowed to be photographed so they would grow up level headed. If I am out and recognized as my mothers daughter I find it awkward and an intrusion. I work meticulously , but only from my office table and when I come home I am mum and wife. I think my mum and I are best friends because we are perfect foils to each other.

6. Nelofar as a person…

Can a person judge themselves fairly. Its not an easy question to answer. Okay ! Here I go , giving it a try. I love nature and the outdoors. I am quite hung up on good values and principles. I feel that good work ethics in a company is a purifying experience. If I sound boring , I am not. I laugh a lot. I find things funny quite easily and I have sense of humour that I think is quick enough ! Well the rest is for someone to say when they write a book on me. Who knows ?

7. If not beauty therapy, then what profession would you be in and why?

I could be so many things. But within my circumstances I would still like to expand myself to experience something beyond, follow my bliss for a while and write many more books. I believe that we need to extend our vision to the maximum, to touch, feel, celebrate the entire universe if one can. I don’t believe in remaining trapped in a tight environment. Prisons are often of different kinds, not always concrete and sometimes we build them around ourselves. There is too much happening in the world and life’s opportunitiy can’t be a missed experience.

I was first introduced to social work by a precious friend, Ms. Jetsun Pema, His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s sister and since my training centres for women have become a rewarding part of my life. Apart for my contribution to Shahnaz Herbals, I would like to be known as someone who made a difference to people’s lives.

8. What does success mean to you?

Sleeping at night with the belief that I did my best and that I have retained a clear conscious about what ever I did.

9. Nelofar the writer….

As a writer I am completely influenced by my childhood hero John Keats. A story needs to be seen , felt , tasted and touched. Your words must be palpable. The reader must walk the journey with you, you have to take him along . One cant be a distant narrator but an up close and personal voice that rings within you. That is my idea of writing and I believe – from those who have read my book – that I have achieved that in Flame.

You can buy the book, “Flame” on Flipkart on this link:

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Book Review: The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki

Title: The Flying Man
Author: Roopa Farooki
Publisher: Headline Review, Hachette Book Group
ISBN: 978-0-7553-9417-3
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 338
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Roopa Farooki’s new book is unlike anything else I have read by her earlier. Even the writing for that matter is different from her other books. The Flying Man is about a man’s life, lived through cities and countries and in various disguises, from where the title comes about.

The Flying Man did take me some time to get into, as it didn’t start with the aplomb I thought it would. However, once the story got me going, I could not stop reading it. The central character of the novel is a man who cannot stay at one place (as you would expect from the title, and the story keeps up to it). This is because he is a criminal (well for that you have to read the book), has had many wives and children (in almost every city) and now, years later, his past is catching up with him. His name is Maqil – also known as Mike, Mehmet, Mikhail and Miguel, and it is all these characters and men (different and yet the same) that Ms. Farooki brings alive in her book.

The book worked for me on various levels. It spoke of conscience, love, fathering children (which I couldn’t relate to), the children’s view about their father, his tracks left behind and of what it feels like when the past is ready to catch up with you, only to culminate in love at the end, as with most stories and plots.

Roopa Farooki writes swiftly and without wasting any time. The urgency in her words and writing is apparent and maybe that is what works best with a book like this. The character of Maqil is of course well charted and documented, however it is also the other characters that equally add to the plot – his many wives, his estranged relationship with his children and their voices and that of his creditors as well, adding sometimes the much needed humour. The Flying Man has its moments of almost every emotion on the range and that’s what makes readers connect to it. I highly recommend this book as a season read.

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Book Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Title: Sister
Author: Rosamund Lupton
Publisher: Piatkus, Hachette Book Group UK
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Fiction
ISBN: 9780749942014
PP: 358 pages
Price: Rs. 295
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Sister is an astounding accomplishment as a debut novel and is well worth reading. I was absorbed by Rosamund Lupton’s story of the truths we keep from our families and their desperate search for those truths once we leave them behind.

The bleak snowscape of the cover is fitting for the setting of the story, but on a deeper level it is indicative of the things before us that can remain hidden and the coldness of a search for answers. The young woman walking away from us into the wintry scene brings a splash of bright colour to the image with her read jacket. That vibrant red instinctively makes us think of blood and the chilling possibilities of what may have happened to Tess. My compliments to the design team at Piatkus for an effective cover design.

Sister is told simultaneously in the form of a letter from Beatrice to Tess and in Beatrice’s statement of events to a lawyer. Rather than being haphazard and confusing, this technique allows us to see the facts of Beatrice’s search for her sister while at the same time giving us an insight into their relationship and personalities. Lupton has managed to weave these two separate voices together to produce a coherent narrative that is thought-provoking and engaging.

Some reviewers have commented on the slower pace of Sister when compared to many thrillers. If you are looking for an action-packed thrill ride then Sister is probably not the book for you. But of you are interested in a book that will make you think and stay with you for days after you finish it, then don’t hesitate. While Sister is not your typical thriller it still fits quite comfortably into the genre, but the menace and threat is built up slowly – like an ominous shadow creeping into a bright sunny day. What I most loved about this story was that Lupton’s writing is crisp and intelligent and she has created real people in a situation that I could imagine myself into. Even now, a day after I finished the book, I find myself wondering what I would have done in Beatrice’s place. It’s this connection with the reader that I thing is especially amazing to find in a debut novel.

As Beatrice tells her story to the lawyer and her sister she undergoes a metamorphosis. Beatrice learns what is really important in her life and as her layers are stripped away the reader experiences this growth in her character firsthand. The snippets of memory shared with Tess from their childhood make the bond between them more real. And through these memories and Beatrice’s story Tess becomes as real a character as any of the others – despite the fact that we never meet her.

Sister is an accomplished debut that looks at how relationships affect us and it’s a book that will stay with you days after you finish it. I can’t wait to see what Lupton has in store for me next!

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Sister: A Novel

Bangalore Calling by Brinda S. Narayan

So I received my copy of Bangalore Calling from the publishers and I as I sat down to read it, I almost saw my life flashing by. I have been working in the BPO Sector for about 9 years now and if there is one person who could relate to the book more than anyone else, it would have to be me and of course millions like me who work for this sector. Before I start with the review, I would like to say something about this industry. It grew and it grew at a speed that was unimaginable. From the very famous and pioneer GE Capital International Services (now GENPACT) to IBM making its foray to WNS to many such organizations who probably have been built by scratch in this industry. The BPO Sector in its own way and alone has generated so much revenue for the country, that it is astounding. I will not bore you with the figures, however certain (mis)conceptions that people have of the so-called “Call Centres” need to change. Our work is not mind-numbing. It can get monotonous just like any other job. I remember when I used to introduce my profession in a room full of lawyers and meds and corporate men and women, I would get the look that questionned: Why? But well that is one part of the industry. The other part is displayed beautifully by the author in her book.

Bangalore Calling is but of course about the BPO Callus (fictional? – I would not say so as it is modelled after so many BPOs I know and am aware of) based in Bangalore and how its employees live their lives day in and day out. There are fifteen interlinked stories in the book, that make you sit up and take notice. The stories are about the call centre employees – from an agent to the manager to the cab driver – their hopes, dreams, zig-zagging through the hustle and bustle, the work demands and the need to make sense of everything at the same time. From the fake acccents adopted by the employees (Training anyone?) to the aspiration of a toilet cleaner working for the same organization. Different stratas of the society and the ability of the BPO Sector to give many such people the right to dream and want to make something of their lives.

The stories of Bangalore Calling are vivid and starkingly real. They bite you when you least expect them to and that is probably the defining feature of this collection. This is not a piece of America – the BPO/Call Centre that is. It is a slice of life as depicted in the book, rightly so. The book goes deeper than what is seen on the Outsourcing surfacing and may be that is the reason why I enjoyed reading the book besides the fact that I could relate to every story.

Bangalore Calling is a book that must be read by all with perceptions about the call centres in our country and how they function. The author’s prose is crisp and to the point. She sure does not run in circles. Her plot is tight and thankfully it does not get dramatic at any point. The book is well-written for sure.  It will sure help clear minds and introduce new perspectives. A great read for one.

You can purchase the book here

Here’s the book trailer and by the way there is also a review contest by the publishers where you can win Book Hampers…Please log onto: www.bangalorecalling.in

Bangalore Calling; Narayan, Brinda S; Hachette India; Rs. 295

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Is the King of the Crypt toying with us with the title FULL DARK, NO STARS? There is no denying that each of these four short, chilling stories plumbs the depths of darkness of the human condition, but each also shines in its own macabre radiance as four mere humans struggle with events that forever alter the course of their lives. This is not a book to lull you to sleep, unless you enjoy double-checking the locks and looking under the bed before you turn in.

In “1922” Wisconsin farmer Wilfred James takes matters into his own hands when his wife decides to sell off the portion of their land left to her by her father. She plans to accept the generous offer for the 100-acre parcel from a hog processing plant and move to town, with or without Wilfred. He loves farming and foresees the hog business bringing with it putrid odors, noise and ruination of his property value. Leave she does, but not without a chilling assist from her husband, who entices their teenage son to help in her murder and the cover-up of the crime. The longest and most gruesome of the four stories, “1922” describes the real and imagined horrors that visit the murderous husband as his life and that of his son gradually unravel. The story of Wilf’s journey into madness finds Stephen King at the height of his writing prowess.

“Big Driver” introduces us to Tess, a writer of cozy mysteries popular with women’s book clubs. Her readers aren’t fond of the “ooky” parts of mysteries, but when she narrowly escapes death at the hands of a serial rapist and murderer on a lonely stretch of road, she is faced with plotting and carrying out her own form of criminal justice. The real-life solution she creates out of her fertile writer’s imagination is deliciously satisfying as the self-sufficient young woman grapples with how to make sure he doesn’t kill again.

At a mere 34 pages, “Fair Extension” is perhaps the darkest and most thought-provoking tale of this extraordinary literary quartet. Dave Streeter, a successful, middle-aged family man, finds himself suddenly confronted by his own mortality by a virulent cancer. Feeling ill, he pulls off the road for a moment and notices a modest roadside vendor’s booth. Curious, he strikes up a conversation with the odd little man who says he gives people what they want through a fair exchange. The man learns of Streeter’s plight and offers restoration of his health with a 30-day, money-back guarantee if he’s not satisfied. The fair exchange that is required is that Streeter must consciously select a person he dislikes who will be on the receiving end of the trade. “Fair Exchange” is a classic tale of good versus evil, a subject that has been thoroughly explored in some of King’s most famous novels. The brevity with which he treats the subject snaps today’s world into sharp focus. Just how far-reaching and pervasive are the consequences of greed in the pursuit of personal gain?

The last entry is “A Good Marriage.” Darcy Anderson discovers that sometimes it doesn’t pay to be too tidy or too curious. Her entirely happy, if somewhat humdrum, world comes crashing down when she stubs her toe on something beneath her husband’s workbench. In a modern-day tale of Pandora’s Box, Darcy will find herself visited with knowledge best left unknown. Her solution, like that of Tess the mystery writer, is startling and darkly satisfying.

King steers clear of the supernatural this time out, depending on how the reader sees the little man in “Fair Exchange.” He offers the idea that there is the potential in each of us to kill, not only in immediate self-defense, but with diabolical cunning, if the situation warrants. He writes in his self-revealing afterword that each of the disturbing tales was constructed from real-life scenarios. Too often, he feels that the “whys” — the reasons people do the things they do that appear in the headlines — are not explored by the law or in the media. In FULL DARK, NO STARS, he explores these reasons through the eyes of otherwise ordinary people.

Here they are, through a glass darkly.

Here is also a great book trailer from Hodder and Stoughton:

Full Dark, No Stars; King, Stephen; Hodder and Stoughton; Hachette India; Rs. 850