Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Interview: Nikhil Mahajan

Today I have on my blog Nikhil Mahajan. Hi Nikhil! Nikhil is the author of "My Love Never Faked", which I reviewed here

1. I'd like to begin this interview by asking you what kind of books are there on your bookshelf? What books are you reading right now? Which genre of books do you generally read? Which books do you re-read again and again?
I read almost all kind of genre as long as it keep me fix to my couch but in my bookshelf I have a lil’ collection which includes: “The Secret” by Rhonda Bryne, “Wings of Fire” by Abdul Kalam, Enrich Sehgal’s Love stories and various contemporary books. I mostly prefer reading romantic novel’s coz in such fictions you can really feel and live the character whereas books like Shiv Khera helps us to uplift our life and thoughts to live better. But I am hooked to books like Shiv Khera and Dr. Zakhir Naik collection which I prefer reading again and again.

2. Tell us something about your work before "My Love Never Faked…"?
I was never into the writing world; I used to write Physiotherapy articles for “The shadow” newspaper at Jammu which was linked to my college and my study course. My Love Never Faked is my debut Novel in the world of literary and before that I was a reader who was found of reading everything which comes his way.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing? What inspired you to write "My Love Never Faked…"?
I never knew that there was any artistic itch in me, I always used to be a dry person with no feelings about love but as I fell in love with a girl to whom I used to gift poems as token of my love (poems being included in my work) I really came to know how beautiful love is and the feeling. But few years later we had a breakup that put me into sea of sorrows; I could not maintain my link with her. As I could not share my feelings, I thought I will write for her and the day when we will unite, I’ll just gift those notes. But it never happened. Words by words, making the sentence, all these months were penned down piling up finally turns into chapters and took the shape of a book. My GF, the ex; is my Inspiration of writing “my love never faked…” and when my readers ask me when they are going to read another love story, I ask myself: “Am I ready to love again?”
4. What kind of people do you think this book will reach out to?
I try to put the very basics about a relationship and love to reach out my readers. I don’t want my readers to open dictionary while reading my book, so I kept it as simple as it could be. I always believe that an emotion is already a very difficult thing to understand then why to make it more complicating with words. The inclusion criteria of my book are those who are passionate about reading love books, fictional autobiographical kind of stuff, imaginative yet so real to attach with.

5. What is your favourite thing about books and reading? How have books made an impact on your life?
Favorite thing about reading a book is that it increases our imagination power and no doubt reading may keep you busy but it is important that you read a good stuff, something constructive which can take you to the next level. It should broaden your horizon of thinking and you never know from ample of lines which line or word may change your life.

6. Quick take. Answer the following with the first words/phrase that comes to your mind, in five words or less:
Love – It’s eternal it’s too big and I am too small to define it.

Life – It does not have a meaning until you give it.

Internet relationships – Hypothetical in nature but yet you can “google” a relationship over internet.

Forgiveness – Highest virtue of life only few can do rest just pretend.

Books – My first passion and my second love.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Love Me In The End by Sonia Kundra Singh

Love Me In The End was not what I expected.

Perhaps a little context is required - most love stories I've read, especially the ones by Indian authors, ignore the concept of lust. So no one is ever physically attracted to anyone, no one ever seems to sleep with anyone at all, and while the hero and heroine always look absolutely gorgeous and flawless, no one ever seems to like them for the way they look, because that would just be too materialistic and detract from the idea of the great Indian love story. Over time, I have come to find this irritating - especially when the love story seems based on lust anyway, and the author is just unwilling to acknowledge that. And here's what I can say for Love Me In The End - it definitely doesn't do that. Catering to Gen Y, the book is refreshingly open about sexuality and relationships - in fact, if you're uncomfortable with that then I would definitely not recommend this book for you. As far as I'm concerned, this is a very open book (in fact, the last book like this was Nikhil Mahajan's "My Love Never Faked" - reviewed here - which, if you recall, had a main character who cheated, watched porn and got the girl from the porn he was watching  and with whom he was cheating on her girlfriend to tattoo her name on him) but I was quite okay with that.

That is not to say that I enjoyed everything about this book. I did like Ria though - the main character - because she was fun, fiery, and definitely not perfect, and she was making more sense than anyone else in this book. Because I certainly could not understand the motivations of many, many people - Amitab, Ria's father, behaves like he lives in the previous century (engaging her with a guy she's never met and then blackmailing the guy into marrying her), her supposedly modern mother (who is divorced and remarried to Amitab, who is also a divorcee) is upset that her daughter is unhappy with her father's choice but still seems to blame it on her daughter for being 'pig-headed' (which seems like a joke! I consider everyone else pigheaded) and last but not the least Arman, Ria's fiancĂ©e who's motivations - both emotional and physical, I fail to understand completely. Also, his hypocrisy made me really hate him! (You will understand once you read the book. Nothing could be as annoying.)

The plot is, as I've explained above, not for everyone. On the other hand, if you're a fan of romance, (this book is reminiscent of Julia Quinn - read here) and you're okay with it, it is quite likely that you will really enjoy this book. Its fast-paced, modern, fun and reasonably well-written - none of the careless grammar and writing that so frequently destroy good stories these days. There are passages in this book that are funny, touching, and incredibly passionate - which is, of course, what all books should aim to do - and I feel the book succeeds in that.

Final thoughts: Its fun, and modern - definitely for the new Indian generation. Give it a miss if you dont like the concept, because its based pretty heavily on that.

Other thoughts: I've been reading a lot of books lately that I haven't got the time to review - like Eric Segal's "The Class" and the first Percy Jackson book, as well as a re-read of the Vlad Taltos series. Expect more reviews soon! Also see my interviews of Anurag Anand, Nikhil Mahajan and Sonia Kundra Singh here soon! Also, its about time for the Book Reading Challenge 2011 and The Book Giveaway of Stilettos in the Newsroom to End - get on it!

(Financial disclosure: Book source is the author.) 

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Quest for Nothing by Anurag Anand

I really liked The Quest for Nothing.

I find it hard to pinpoint exactly what was so amazing about it. Its a combination of various not-so-important factors that lead to a finished product that is both a good story and an extremely good piece of writing. Perhaps at first glance it was the impeccable writing - I dont think you will find a single place in this book with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or poor editing - a change that I really appreciate when compared to a lot of books I read these days. The book is a polished, finished product - there is no superfluous information, the book is fast paced, and the writing is really good. It is an extremely professional book - and that is one of the things I appreciated the most when I was on the first half of the book and hadnt really gotten into the story just then. The non-linear structure also works really well, as it gets you into the mystery and makes you feel for Akash, though it can be confusing.

The second part I liked is the plot. The plot is definitely not full of fantasy or even over-the-top, its a simple mystery and a very normal marital relationship - but I think the simplicity is what makes this book truly good. The relationship between Deepali and Akash has got to be my favorite part of the book, simply because its so easy to identify with - the beginning of the romance, the passionate honeymoon period, the pressure of work leading to a decrease in affection, the breaks and the shake-ups and the cheating - I like how each part of it is the kind of thing that can happen to just about anyone. The mystery that forms a core of the book - the reason why Akash is accused of leaking highly confidential data - also seems to build naturally from the way things were and the ending, while not completely unexpected, was still interesting.

The supporting characters were perhaps not as well-developed as I would have liked - we never do get the full story behind Monisha, for example, and I would've liked to know more about Neil as well - though honestly I understand this. Its a short book and its a quick one, and perhaps the lack of all that information adds to the book rather than detracts from it, but I am still the type of person who likes to know everything about every character. On the other hand, the more important characters - in particular Akash (the hero) and Deepali (his wife) are so much fun to read, and they are so superbly etched (especially Deepali) that the book continues to shine despite this pit-fall. Its been a long time since I have written such an elated review - but thats probably because its been a while since I've enjoyed a book quite this much.

Final thoughts: As one reviewer puts it, nothing to WOW you in this book, but its still worth what you pay for it. The varied aspects of plot, characterization and good writing come together to give you a book that is not wow and yet will wow you.

Other thoughts: I will be reviewing author Anurag Anand soon on my blog! Keep reading!
Also, this is part of my list for the Book Reading Challenge 2011.

(Financial disclosure: Book source is the author.) 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Giveaway: Stilettos in the Newsroom by Rashmi Kumar

Here is your chance to win one of 3 author-signed copies of Stilettos in the Newsroom, by Rashmi Kumar. This is a great book on the struggles faced by a woman in the cut-throat industry of journalism and is about her struggles in love, life and work. If you want to know more, read my review of the book here.

Update: Due to the response, the author is offering not 1 but 3 copies of the book! Come and apply!

Entering this contest is really simple. Just write here below the answers to the following simple questions: 
1) Which is the book you're reading right now? 
2) Which is your favorite book and why? 
3) Which is your favorite catch-phrase from a book? 
(Curious about the questions? Rashmi Kumar and In My Bookshelves love to promote the reading and sharing of your favorite books.)

New update: If you would prefer to be more private, email me your answers at sakhisshah[at]gmail[dot]com (replace the [at] and [dot] with the respective symbols.)

Also leave your name and your email address and you might win a copy of this great book! So come on in and join the fun! 

Also, if you want to ask author Rashmi Kumar a question, about her books or just about anything else, do post below in the comments! 

Contest Deadline: 31st May. Winners will be announced soon after and notified by email! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Love Never Faked by Nikhil Mahajan

My Love Never Faked - Trust Me I Still Love You is a different yet similar love story.

Here is something I really like about the book and I feel it differentiated it from the rest of the books of this type - the story. Its not your regular boy-meets-girl, and stuff happens book, and for the first time in a long time its the story of two people who have actually been in a relationship for a long, long time, and a story of how the stupid action of the guy (namely "meeting a girl on a website, flirting with her, and finally ending up with a tattoo of her name on his chest") breaks them up - and how love may or may not survive when faced with insurmountable odds. It gives you a very "it-could-happen-to-you-if-you-are-really-stupid" situation and then forces you to question what the hell you would do in it. If you were the girl, would you forgive him? If you were the guy, would you dare to ask for forgiveness? And will Priya finally forgive Abhi? Written in a very autobiographical way (and perhaps based on real events, I don't know if it is) it forces you to look up because of the realism. 

The realism is also there in the characters and situations. Contrary to bollywood-ish dramas, there is not much photoshopping done to this story. It comes across as one that might happen to just about anyone. Abhi acts really awfully in the whole story - two-timing, forgetting important dates, watching porn, having immature pranks with friends, fantasizing about girls, and of course making the mistake of his life as shown above, and Priya comes across as the typified girlfriend - nagging, fighting, cute, always remembering the important dates...and while this does seem a little stereotyped at times, with there typical roles of the girlfriend and boyfriend, and patronizing at times where Abhi talks about "makhan lagana" to Priya, it does strike a chord at places, and will for many people living in our day and age who are happily (or unhappily) in love.

The problems I've had with this book include the grammar and writing style, which did not agree with me at all. I understand this is a book aimed for the 'texting crowd' but I do not find things like 'u' acceptable in the narrative of a book, and I do feel the grammar and formatting could do with major editing in the book. If you arent a grammar Nazi like me you will mostly not have a problem with this, but me being who I am could not easily get over this. (Note: The author has informed me that this is corrected in later versions of the book. So a note for people buying, consider looking into this.) And on the other hand, the book is short and zippy, it gets through pretty fast, and there are very few slow scenes, though there are a few irrelevant ones, like the one with the revenge, which seemed to be there just because. 

Final thoughts: I can recommended the book for its sense of realism and a plot that I found pretty different. Points off for the handling of the grammar and syntax.

Other thoughts: I'll have author Nikhil Mahajan for an interview soon on this blog, watch this space! Also, this is one of my additions for the Book Reading Challenge 2011. 

(Financial disclosure: Book source was the author.)  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Interview: Ankita Chadha

And today I have on my blog Ankita Chadha, author of Anything Else But Love which is I reviewed a few days ago. Welcome, Ankita!

1. I'd like to begin this interview by asking you what kind of books are there on your bookshelf? What books are you reading right now? Which genre of books do you generally read? Which books do you re-read again and again?
Thank you Sakhi for interviewing me!
My bookshelf is filled with numerous philosophy books (Mostly written by Osho), and romance books. ‘The mystic rose’ written by Osho is my favourite.
I am currently reading ‘The devil and miss prym’ by Paulo Coelho.
I generally read philosophy and romance. And even though I love philosophy, it is romance I mostly pick.
Any book that touches my heart and leaves me with a wow feeling is re-read by me, not once, but as many times I want to. I have re-read Harry Potter series three times till date.  

2. Tell us something about your work before "Anything Else But Love"?
My first work is ‘Little things in life’, a book based on philosophy. It’s about the journey of a teenage girl who delves into the anonymity of life and wants to understand the depth and the beauty of it.
The book hasn’t been released yet, since much work is pending on it, and I do not plan to release it anytime before one year or so. Hence, ‘Anything else but love’ remains my debut novel.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing? What inspired you to write "Anything Else But Love"?
A person never becomes a writer – either he is, by default, or he is not. He only becomes aware of his writing ability. And I was aware since my school days. I wrote poems mostly, and it was in my ninth standard that I first thought of writing a novel.
Around ten months ago I was working on some other book, when I saw this dream.  A couple was dressed in white, and there was radiating whiteness around them, almost celestial. They were at some workplace, and the guy was standing close to this simple traditional girl, resting his face near her ear, muttering something. And the girl was blushing incessantly. I could in fact see her going beetroot red, and the guy adoring his blushing beauty with a plastered smiled etched across his face. Then the dream ended.
I was so determined then. I knew that no matter what, this is the love story I have to write, because you don’t get to see such eternal, beautiful, and ethereal couples anymore.

4. What kind of people do you think this book will reach out to?

People who still believe in a kind of romance where you enter into a timeless zone, you lose yourself to a person, only to never get yourself back again. You do not walk anymore; rather bounce with each step that you take. Everything around you becomes infinitely slow, beautiful and divine.
So, anyone who has cherished such emotions, or wants to, will definitely pick up this book.

5. What is your favourite thing about books and reading? How have books made an impact on your life?
The best part about books is that they have the anything-is-possible element in them. Reading makes me forget reality for sometime and I am taken into a whole new world of vividness and imagination. I visit places, cast spells, meet riveting creatures, and engage into all sorts of adventure – all without leaving home at all!
Books have always allowed me to delve into things and emotions I would have otherwise overlooked. They have instilled more patience in me.

6. Quick take. Answer the following with the first words/phrase that comes to your mind, in five words or less:
Love – an extremely beautiful feeling

Life – a very precious gift

Struggles in love – makes the relationship stronger

Avi (the character) – an adorable loving soul

Books – a boon to humanity

Sunday, May 1, 2011

List: India Portrayed the Best

As you might know, the first sunday of each month is list day, and now its time to do my list day for May. On list day,  I list a few great books on a particular topic if you want something to add to your reading list. I hope you enjoy this! :)  

Today my list is on books that portrayed India the best. It has been said about India that, "But nothing in India is identifiable, the mere asking of a question causes it to disappear or to merge in something else." (E. M. Forster). Thus, it is really hard for any author to portray the essence of India in a few hundred or even a few thousand pages. The books ahead are books that I feel do justice to an almost impossible task. They are on different topics - love, politics, corruption, the Indian underworld - and from the books in my list, one is written by an author raised mostly in India, another by a non-Indian, and a third by someone who no longer even lives in India - and yet, each of these books manages to capture most admirably the soul of India, which is why I have loved all of them. 

India Portrayed the Best

A Suitable Boy: A Novel (Modern Classics)ShantaramThe White Tiger: A Novel

(Note: The books are in no particular order.) 

1. A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth) 
Plot: Set in post-independence India in the 1950s, A Suitable Boy is the story of one girl - Lata - and her quest to find a husband, among four inter-connected families of India. Through the story of her search and her family, Seth manages to convey various aspects of Indian life - politics, corruption, love, rural life, friendship, music, art and family. A Suitable Boy might be set in the 1950s, but the best part about it is that even today, one can identify with all the conditions and characters - even as we learn a little about the problems faced by post-independence India in its struggle for identity. 
Read my full review here. 
Why should you read it? Excellent writing, beautifully etched characters, and one of the best portrayals of India I have ever read - it is a book to warm your heart and change your life. 
Don't believe me? You don't have to. Read this, or this or this or this
Why you may not like it? Well, it gets really, really long. Its hard for most people to get through (though it really pays off) - and having such a large scale, everyone develops their own favorite characters, which means others get neglected a bit (by you, not the author).

A Suitable Boy: A Novel (Modern Classics)

2. Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts)  
Plot: In Shantaram, Lin, an escaped convict from an Australian prison, lands up in India, and finds himself at home. Here he will find love, live in the slums, work as a slum doctor, go live in a village, join the mafia, fight in Afghanistan, do a number of illegal things, get caught by Indian police and abused in Indian police, be betrayed and hurt - and even work in a bollywood film. Along the way, he gives us a beautiful glimpse into India, and makes you fall in love with the same. 
Read my full review here
Why should you read it? Written like poetry, with a great cast, a fascinating plot, and the a portrayal of India that can make you fall in love with the country even as you see the darkest parts of it. 
Don't believe me? Maybe this, this or this will be able to convince you. 
Why you may not like it? It gets way too poetic at parts, and once again, it is big enough to put off most readers.   

3. White Tiger (Aravind Adiga) 
Plot: White Tiger is the story of one Balram Halwai - a boy from a small village in the 'darkness' who somehow makes his way into the big city, and works there as a driver. Only, Balram is an entrepreneur, and he longs to break free from this life of servitude. And through his letters to the Chinese Premier, we learn exactly how he does this - and what it takes to be a White Tiger (or a unique person) in the corruption-ridden  reality of India. 
Read my full review here
Why you should read it? The book is depressing, but its also about courage in the face of unbelievable odds, about taking difficult decisions and living through them, and about being a white tiger - someone who comes along just once in a generation. It is a book about change, and progress at its core - in a very uplifting way - and a book that I think all Indians should read
Don't believe me? Read this, this or this
Why you may not like it? Well, people have told me that the book is absolutely disgusting, written by a person who doesnt understand India, and has a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist. 

The White Tiger: A Novel


Well, that's it for this round! If you feel another book shouldve made the cut, share it with me and my readers...happy reading! 

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