Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book Review : My Journey With Vadapav by Venkatesh Iyer

Title: My Journey With Vadapav
Author: Venkatesh Iyer
Publisher: TV18 Broadcast Limited (CNBC TV18) 

Genre: Non-Fiction/ Business

Date:  2016

Price: INR 216 (free on Kindle Unlimited)

Pages: 150

Before I begin to write about the content of this book I would like to tell you that its rare these days for a book to have a great feel, like a product would give you, made with perfection, keeping its entire feel in mind . The hard bound edition of this book is one such creation after a long time in the business genre.

Its coverpage design, giving the feel of Mumbai, the city where the dish originated, where a lot of lives survive only on vadapav in the struggling days; drawn in sketch (I am a fan of what sketch can do  to depict a concept in my opinion is ideal for concept depiction), in the colours of vadapav gives you a feeling of being at the place where it all began.

For a brief introduction "Goli Vadapav" is one of the most unique business concepts that put indian vada-pav on a pedestal similar to the western burgers (like Mc Donalds and KFC) did. It's success as a business model is depicted by the fact that Harvard teaches it in its B-school and so do many other good business schools worldwide. All this happened because Venkatesh Iyer was a non-classical thinker in his family and had a crazy dream of doing "the one thing" worthwhile in the Indian food industry.

Venkatesh Iyer begins his story from the beginning, a description of his own traits in early life and career and his love for one dish that was central to Mumbai "vada-pav" as opposed to "idli sambhar", the more expected choice from anyone hailing from the south of India. He begins to describe his idols in people even bollywood film stars which makes you immediately connect to him as a person, for nobody in India cannot be left untouched by the fevers of Indian cinema. Despite being a tycoon his entire story has this tone maintained, that of a commoner which inspires one emphatically. 

The  story then ofcourse moves into the details of successes and failures in creating this venture. The lessons to learn are to go on despite no matter what, to believe in your niche idea, where and where not to take suggestions, the challenges and merits of collaborations from his point of view and his journey. What I however found extremely bizzare in the story was "how did they not thing about uniformity of formulation problem before starting it all?". 

Overall it is the journey of a common man in making a street food product hygienic and standard. Read it for the love of vada-pav.

RC Rating: 4/5. 

Grab a copy here:

Book Review: The Mask Diaries by Abhinav Goel

Title: The Mask Diaries
AuthorAbhinav Goel
Publisher: Bennet Coeman (Times Group)

Genre: Fiction

Date:  2017

Price: INR 193/ Kindle- INR 206

Pages: 232

The Mask Diaries begins with the story of a child, a not so bright one who has various issues. His life has no love as he losses his mother at a very young age, is not valued by his father for being below average at grades, has a slight limp in his leg, so on and so forth. Like every being he wishes to be loved and adored. One day while facing a circumstance, he discovers a friend that helps him conquer his monsters. The sad part is this friend is within him and calls himself "the mask". The entire story then moves around the relationship of this boy with this mask as his life progresses and how it evolves or changes him. The boy both loves and hates the mask and the same is true for the mask. They have a relationship of being symbiotic and parasitic beings for each other.

The concept begins beautifully as the boy discovers this mask, their initial conversation, understandings etc. are very philosophical in nature. The whole concept of giving "the mask" an identity of "a being" is amazing. The story then take various turns which challenge the character and the mask getting the reader intrigued. Right in the middle of it all when you think this book is a perfect philosophical endeavor all goes on the downhill slope. I believe the author is lost here unable to expand the concept, the battle and it just becomes a mundane story. Also the entire path of conversation, growth etc. just stunts at this phase and there is a huge disconnect leaving a huge craving emanating from the hope the author himself created in the beginning. I found the style very similar to the trajectory Paulo Coehlo takes often with his philosophies, but in my opinion justice isn't done to the concept that looked promising in the beginning. On the whole story did have a potential to be a good work but it misses the point in the second half.

The plot is amazing and the book should be read by everyone who likes a philosophical jigsaw puzzle or is planning to write one. For the author I can just suggest a thinking through and a good agent at this stage.

RC Rating: 3/5. For the concept and the effort. Read it when you need a different flavour in your story. 

Grab a copy here:

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Giveaway!!! The THC: Under A Gibbous Moon by Manoj Jain

Hello Readers, hope you are reading amazing books :) :) :). We bring you a chance to win one more for your collection "The THC: Under A Gibbous Moon by Manoj Jain"


About The Book:

“Now look at the person in the mirror and tell her that you love her.” 

Sanjaneka stared and stared, unable to utter the simple words aloud.
Why is Sanjaneka unable to love herself? What past is she running away from? 
How does an Uber ride help Samar to save his marriage?
Why does the dull moonlight of a gibbous moon trouble Varun so much?

Three lives. One Utopian centre.
The Total Holistic Centre (The THC) welcomes the broken and those looking for closure through its doors and works its magic to return them to the world fulfilled. This is the story of these three troubled souls who seek solace at the centre, indulge in its unusual treatment and find the cures to their ailments in surprising places.

A book on loss, longing and changing circumstances, The THC dives into uncomfortable topics that are usually swept under the rug: fragile relationships, deteriorating marriages, addictions, impotence, and the delicate bond between fathers and sons.

Welcome to the THC...

All you have to do to win a copy of this book is tell us about "a fear you have and how do you overcome it?" in comments answers win!

We have 5 copies of the book to be given what are you waiting for???

This contest is open to Indian residents only. 

The contest ends at 11:59 pm on 10th May 2017...hurry!!!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Book Review: The Bobby Pins and Other Short Stories by Debashri Banerjee

Title: The Bobby Pins and Other Short Stories
Author: Debashri Banerjee
Publisher: Notion Press

Genre: Fiction(short stories)

Date:  2017

Price: INR 199

Pages: 138

First of all the cover-page of this book is very attractive and that combined with it being a short story collection, makes you pick it immediately. The book has 13 stories, each with very real characters aimed to as if show a reflection image of the society, we the people make back to us. It is true that all of us, humanity is neither white or dark but we are shades of grey. However, if you further dissect the grey is layered and in some corners of our heart the darkest shade spills its colors all over our lives and its decisions. Be it a woman's plight living as a prostitute in "Janani's pride" to that of a widow in "Widows of Shivoham", the later being my personal favorite, the twist being more than what one could ask for. The layers of emotions of being a parent hood expressed in the stories "The Bobby Pins" or "The Story of 'IT'" will leave a mark on you. "The Road to Salvation", "The Limping Girl at NH-64" and "Oh! Silly you!" etc. tell us about the evolving shade of humanity.

The writer has a great flair of combining the mundane with the  bizarre, only a pinchful to blend perfectly into some stories, making them real and yet unreal in some parts at the same time. The stories are all delivered crisp with a streak of darkness that the writer effortlessly delivers in each story. The darker flavor gains mildly over a subtle plot, suggesting the maturity uncommon in such a young writer. Though comparisons are unfair, as each one has their own style of writing, when writing short stories I have had the utmost pleasure of reading Sangeeta Mahapatra, the next book, surely is this one! Debashri Banerjee is a writer to watch out for. 

Rating: 4/5. Great delivery for a debut. Highly recommended. 

About The Author:
Debashri Banerjee is a writer by profession for last seven years and currently associated with an IT company as a lead content writer in Noida. She has been writing since the age of 16 and has ventured into areas like poetry, short stories, interviews, features on lifestyle topics and several blogs on miscellaneous issues like online business, relationships etc. She is an active blogger and writes on her portals and and platforms like 

She loves reading, writing, listening to music, watching short films and involving into healthy conversations.The Bobby Pins and Other Short Stories is her debut novel.  She strongly aspires to become the best-known feature writer, scriptwriter and an author in the country someday

Book Review: Jim Morgan and the Seven Sins by Bharat Madan

Title: Jim Morgan and the Seven Sins
Author: Bharat Madan
Publisher: Notion Press

Genre: Fiction

Date:  2017

Price: INR 299/99 (Kindle)

Pages: 308

Jim Morgan is a character not unheard of, a best-selling popular writer who shuns away all popularity for focused writing. He has no personal life, seperated from his wife and no family. He lives alone and does only one thing"writing". He has however trouble writing the next book and approaching deadlines from publishers. The story begin with an unusual day where he suddenly one day he receives an unusual visitor, God. God tells him that his sufferings are due to the karma in his past life and he must get over and rectify them to be able to live better. The formatting and the feeling of the book at the beginning is amazing. It makes a reader, especially a mature one instantaneously connect with the book for the character sketching is just perfect. The recluse perfectionist is projected so well that you could almost predict his next move.

God tells him that he had a past life where he committed seven sins. These sins should be paid of in this birth, in the next seven days. The best part of the story, the clue for each sin is in the writers previous books. So Jim begins reading them trying to identify his mis-deeds. What then unfolds is a gory story, connected through his previous books, each piece delivered to him like a puzzle.  Up til this point, the writer ensures a large literary landscape for his plot and the book gives an impression of a literary pursuit, however what next happens with the "sins" part turns it towards a thriller. The entire build I think could have been a better platform for something more psychological or literary, I wish the author could release a different version of the same story post the first half. However, that was just my tasteful expectation and many may appreciate what further unfolds. 

The book has certain minor logical flaws, like its many characters being extremely familiar with Hinduism, though none of them really is one, but these can be overlooked as the story still remains gripping. It is definitely a book that gets you hooked on to it and ensures itself to be a one shot read. Bharat Madan adds to my list of new Indian writers to watch out for.

Rating: 3.5/5. Highly recommended.

Don't Believe in God Till You Experience Him by Frog Books

Title:  Don't Believe in God Till You Experience Him.
Author: Mukul Kumar
Publisher: Frog Books

Genre: Religion

Date:  2017

Price: INR 275/134.40 (Kindle)

Pages: 266

I thought this would be an easy book for me to review, given that I myself have traversed this phase – or rather, am traversing this phase – a hunt for the truth of existence. Little did I know then that this would be one of the hardest books to review – and one I could not back out of, as I had given my word. Aur diyaa huaa shabd main waapas nahi letaa; sachhaa Sanaatan Dharmi jo thhe heraa. I still believe in the promise, the spoken word, given that I have seen, used and felt its power in Modern Business in India, where the word, shabd, promise still is paramount even in deals for crores, from personal experience!

Is the book that bad? That it isn’t; most certainly. I rate it 3 stars; shorn of my bias, it is easily 4-stars. This is an excellent work, and if it is fiction – repeat – if it is fiction; then it qualifies for 4.5 stars unbiased, & 3.5 stars from my personal POV. This comes across as a real-life story; at no point does this seem like fiction. And yet, I have come across nothing anywhere that tells me this is a real story. And that is the major point of this book : the top-notch use of words and language!

This is a story about one man’s life from his childhood till his approaching 30s, a story about his life, his trials, his experiences. I would not rate this as a fully spiritual book; but that is my POV entirely. This is the story of a boy from a not-so-well-off family; not poor, but decidedly not middle class either. This boy is just at the right socio-economic stage where materialism is just tantalizingly within reach so as to make it desirable, and just out of reach to make it frustrating. And that is the beauty of the story; this made an instantaneous connect with me.

This is the story of an imperfect person, like all of us; someone you can instantly relate with. A person from a joint family, with his parents and especially his mother being picked upon regularly, a person who goes through a less-than-ideal childhood. Not bullied in any way, but sadly exposed to bullying of his mother, and the family troubles that leave a deep impression. A child of a second marriage, and all that it entails; this is riveting stuff, and has been superbly dealt with.

This is his story- and how he grows from toddler-hood to childhood to adolescence, and onwards; the struggles he goes through for an education, and how his family and he manage to scrape through. This is the story of how he goes what I call wayward, and how circumstances and his conscience manage to get himself to correct himself, and make it to a good college for a decent education. This is the part of the story that is truly riveting, and deeply connective on an emotional level.

And then this boy, or young adult goes what I will prefer to call astray. He gets hopelessly entangled in the web of an occult group, when he should be either focusing on his studies exclusively, or enjoying college life. One gives knowledge, the other develops experience and openness, both of which are vital for success in the Modern World. Our genius does neither; and goes headlong after a wild-goose chase into the unfathomable waters of the mystical. And from this point onwards, the book slowly loses steam, till eventually losing connect with me in some 15% of the book, before turning around once again into riveting stuff in the last 10-15 pages.

This brings me to the main and indeed only reason for me docking a star in my rating; the shift into what I call the occult, and what others may prefer to call Spirituality  - could have been handled much better; it comes across as abrupt. It is this lack of a proper connect which causes the story to lose some steam. The overall characterization tones are in keeping with a spiritual bent on mind; that I grant. But it seems to abrupt when it does come about. Having been in an intensely personal spiritual hunt for 2-3 years myself now, I realize that it can indeed  be abrupt; but the background for the shift has to be there, and a trigger has to be present.

If I look back at myself, I can readily see both the abruptness of the switch; as well as the triggers. I first read the Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta in my teens; the hero {or anti-hero} of the novel got his first experience with meditation in the teens as well. So far, so good. But this chappie gets attracted to the meditative side when he should be excited for the new and rich phase in his life, which I personally call the Occult, being a daily reader of the Upanishads & The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta; being a person who has read a minimum of a dozen ancient texts, and several more books on them in my hunt.

Now that set-up requires either a trigger, or a personality trait, habit that can logically drive a person towards that path.  In my case, I am a voracious reader; have read and reviewed 155+ books; have a personal collection of over 500; deeply into non-fiction, in a long {now in its 8th year} hunt for Colonial Reality and Independence Historical truths; and went through a tough phase in life, besides always wondering on the nature of life in general and our purpose on it, as my writings of the past 10 years tell. Thus, it was simple enough to get attracted to ancient texts in the Geeta Press Stall I came across. That is what the story lacks; a sufficiently deep and logical reason that can fully explain the shift. I concede shifts can happen; I myself am living proof.

The second part of the book is all about a frankly dark, mysterious experience with an ever-increasing foray into the side of the Occult, as this anti-Hero quits his life, his steady job and goes headlong into this hunt for peace, something which my spiritual understanding tells me is plumb wrong, since so long as one is in this body, one cannot ignore its needs, and indeed duties. You don’t just quit and run. But the biggest plus is what emerges here, paradoxically; as the story surprisingly comes together in the end, to make it sound almost logical. For that, read the book; it is good enough for a read, and more!

I will not make any comments on the title, or the Author’s Goodreads blog contents; whether or not you choose to believe in God is your own decision. I have my views; you have yours. That is my outlook on this. The past 2-3 years, my studies in this field, and my experiences have all led me to believe in my path; let us leave it at that. As regards the book, this is an excellent work of fiction, with a riveting story – and never mind its one flaw, which you can overlook.

About the Author: 

"Mukul hails from a small historical town, Rajgir in Nalanda district in the state of Bihar. Coming from a humble background, he gained rich experience as he traversed through different phases of his life. Due to poor educational infrastructure back home, he was forced to travel, first to Patna and then to Delhi, for higher studies. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Delhi University. The search for excellence that started with his pursuit for education, continued with his professional career. Mukul joined the IT industry as he came out of college, and has been travelling across the globe working out of client locations. A man with many unfulfilled dreams and no regrets, Mukul likes to pursue writing, reading, introspection, meditation, traveling and understanding human psyche."

The book review has been written by Vishal Kale. He has an MBA in Marketing with 16 years of experience in Sales, Marketing & Operations across various industries, with end-to-end specialisation in telecom sales and marketing. 

He is an Indian Top Blogger {on ITB Website} for the past 2 years and counting; Nominated in top 5 Political Bloggers by Blogadda in Win-15 & Among the top 200 bloggers worldwide on Invesp. He specialises in deep politico-economic analysis; Books off the beaten track, and a value & fundamentals-based approach towards the Indian Economy, Corporate India - And Especially Indian Colonial History"

Friday, April 14, 2017

Author Interview: Ashraf Engineer

Ashraf Engineer's life itself is a combination of a fantasy fiction and thriller. He has been working for more than 16 years with leading media houses of the India. He is one of those few of us who in 2011 took a leave of absence to train journalists in Kabul and his life space is now onto a chapter in Mumbai where he is into corporate to consult in communication and market space. I got to know about him as he approached for a review of his debut book -Bricks of Blood, with which he has taken a bold move to release it in a Kindle only version. I wanted to know more about his writing and inspirations behind them. Here is the conversation that took place:

Q. Describe your journey into writing?
A: I was a journalist for 17 years, which is how I gained my understanding of writing. However, I have always been interested in it since childhood. As a journalist, I would tell myself that I would write a book some day but I never got around to actually doing it. It’s strange that I managed it only after I quit newspapers, that too five years after doing so. Probably the time I took helped me to look back at my experiences and learning more maturely.

Towards the end of 2016, I simply made up my mind to write the book and managed it in two months flat. It’s a novella, so it was possible to do so in such a short period.

Q. How did the current story “Bricks of blood” occur to you? How did its characters, plot etc. take form?
A: First of all, it’s strange that I came up with a work of fiction. As a journalist, I dealt with facts so I always felt that my first book would be non-fiction. However, I chose fiction simply because the research for a non-fiction book would mean taking time off from my day job – communications and marketing consultancy – which I did not want to do.

What’s stranger is that ‘Bricks of Blood’ did not start off as a book. The opening passage – the fight between the central character, Nooh, and the builder’s henchmen – simply came to me on a sleepless night. Normally, I can’t remember what I have read or thought of at such times but the next day I could pen it down word for word. Initially, I thought I’d write a short story but as the narrative grew I thought it could be a blog series. Finally, as it was fleshed out further, as new plot twists occurred to me, I decided on a novella format. I was very clear from the beginning that I would not do a full-length book because the pace of the story was paramount. I felt that I could not sustain it over, say, 300 pages.

As for the characters, in journalism you come across varied people and I drew from my experience to etch them. Many of the places I’ve mentioned are real. For instance, South Pali village is Pali Village in Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai. Devkhop, Ghorpade and Manor are places I have visited in Palghar district. The dance bar I have described is typical of the ones that used to exist in Mumbai.

Q. What made you decide to publish via an online “Amazon only” platform instead of traditional publishing?

A: I believe that while the uptake is slower in India, the world is shifting rapidly to e-readers. I see this a lot among my students – I have been teaching since 2004; currently I teach brand communications but started off with media studies – especially, which is a good indicator of what the next generation prefers.

There were other reasons. I wrote this book as the fulfillment of a dream. I had no aspirations for fame, nor did I wish to make any money from it. In fact, I made a commitment when I announced the book that other than a token amount I would give away all my royalties to charity. 

This made the process of approaching publishers, penning contracts, etc, redundant. Lastly, I think that self-publishing leaves you with more control of your work.

Q. What has been the most difficult part of this journey into writing? How did you overcome it?
A: As writers, we find flaws continuously with our work. We are constantly unhappy with it and nervous that inconsistencies have slipped in. While I did not have the services of a publishing house for editing or help with the issues I just described, I did run it by some experienced editors who I know. Once they said they really liked the book, I felt confident enough to publish it.

The other challenge is marketing a self-published book. I used digital platforms for this. To my surprise, given how little I spent, the tactic actually worked.

Q. Are you a methodical writer?
A: If you mean do I first write out the characters, a story outline, plot twists, etc, and then the book itself, then the answer is no. In this case, I let the story flow as it came to me. However, I am a very disciplined writer. I wrote without fail every single day, took the time to think through the story and was ruthless while editing it.

 Q. Which books and writers have inspired you?
A: I have been deeply inspired by Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, the Dalai Lama’s ‘Freedom in Exile’ and Muhammad Ali’s ‘The Greatest’. As you can tell, I read a lot of biographies. Among fiction writers, it’s Harper Lee, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Salman Rushdie, among others.

Q. Writing something currently?
A: Not at the moment. But I do have the plot idea for my next book. I’ll probably start later this year.

Q. When in a bad time how do you bounce back?
A: Normally, I just tough it out. Experience has taught me that nothing bad lasts forever; it’s a question of how well you deal with it while it lasts.

Q. Your experience being a published writer and any wise advise for budding writers?
A: It’s been fulfilling. More than the sales, it’s been the outpouring of goodwill and support that has touched me.

I have only one piece of advice: just do it. I put off writing my book for all the usual reasons: lack of time, lack of confidence, etc. I found that once I actually started doing it, I was very confident of how it was turning out. So, just go ahead and write that book!