Friday, May 24, 2013

Timeline by Micheal Crichton : Mini Review

Publisher : Ballantine books
Copy source : Personal
Rating : 3.5/5

Synopsis from Good reads

When you step into a time machine, fax yourself through a "quantum foam wormhole" and step out in feudal France circa 1357, be very, very afraid. If you aren't strapped back in precisely 37 hours after your visit begins, you'll miss the quantum bus back to 1999 and be stranded in a civil war, caught between crafty abbots, mad lords and peasant bandits all eager to cut your throat. You'll also have to dodge catapults that hurl sizzling pitch over castle battlements. On the social front, you should avoid provoking "the butcher of Crecy" or Sir Oliver may lop your head off with a swoosh of his broadsword or cage and immerse you in "Milady's Bath", a brackish dungeon pit into which live rats are tossed now and then for prisoners to eat.
This is the plight of the heroes of Timeline, Michael Crichton's thriller. They're historians in 1999 employed by a tech billionaire-genius with more than a few of Bill Gates' most unlovable quirks. Like the entrepreneur in Crichton's Jurassic Park, Doniger plans a theme park featuring artefacts from a lost world revived via cutting-edge science. When the project's chief historian sends a distress call to 1999 from 1357, the boss man doesn't tell the younger historians the risks they'll face trying to save him. At first, the interplay between eras is clever but Timeline swiftly becomes a swashbuckling old-fashioned adventure, with just a dash of science and time paradox in the mix. Most of the cool facts are about the Middle Ages and Crichton marvellously brings the past to life without ever letting the pulse-pounding action slow down. At one point, a time-tripper tries to enter the Chapel of Green Death. Unfortunately, its custodian, a crazed giant with terrible teeth and a bad case of lice, soon has her head on a block. "She saw a shadow move across the grass as he raised his axe into the air." Try not to turn the page!

Through the narrative can be glimpsed the glowing bones of the movie that may be made from Timeline and the high tech computer game that should hit the market in 2000. Expect many clashing swords and chase scenes through secret castle passages. But the book stands alone, tall and scary as a knight in armour shining with blood. --Tim Appelo
My thoughts : 
The way it started , I thought it was going to be a 4 star book for me , but somewhere in the middle the narrative started sagging and getting a little repetitive. Definitely a memorable cast of characters .The idea is exhilarating, maybe the editing could have been tauter.Towards the end I was just waiting for the book to get over and move on to something else. 

If you like reading about the medieval times ( which I don't ) , you might enjoy the vast amounts of information you can glean about 14th century France. I just found the be headings and blood shed and the bravado of the knights just too much to stomach. Maybe I really don't fancy historical fiction (though this isn't technically of that genre).  The technology part of the idea behind the book is rather interesting , and I found myself enjoying the parts where Crichton explained the nitty- gritties of quantum physics. I am definitely going to pick up more books on the idea of parallel universes and quantum physics (though I never enjoyed my physics classes in school).Which just goes on to prove my pet peeve that our education system sucks and does not pique enough interest in children. Rote -learning   
of formulas is definitely not the recipe for life-long love and curiosity. 

Amazing amounts of research has gone into creating this book( as evident from the bibliography at the end ) , and I respect that ,which is why I am giving this book a 3.5.(less)

Overall , an ok read. If you dig Knights and gory stuff , you might like this one! I loved it because the idea of parallel universe is just so intriguing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Powder Room by Shefalee Vasudev

Genre : Non- fiction
Publisher : Ebury Press (Random House )
Copy source :
You can buy this book : Here
My rating : *****/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Ever been intrigued by the Indian Fashion Industry—its stereotypes of drugged models, gay designers, and fascinating but unaffordable clothes?

Join Shefalee Vasudev, former editor of Marie Claire and an acclaimed fashion journalist, on a deep‑sea dive into the gagging depths of Indian fashion. In Powder Room, she offers an insider’s view of people who make the industry what it is—from a lower middle class girl who sells global luxury for a living to a designer who fights the inner demons of child sexual abuse yet manages to survive and thrive in the business of fashion, or a Ludhiana housewife on a perpetual fashion high.

Besides candid interviews of known names in Indian fashion, Shefalee provides a commentary on new social behaviour, urban culture, generational differences, and the compulsions behind conspicuous consumption in a country splitting at the seams with inequalities of opportunity and wealth. From Nagaland to Patan, Mumbai, Delhi, and Punjab, Powder Room mirrors how and why India ‘does’ fashion.(less)

What I thought about the book :

I don't think I have ever been a keen follower of fashion and could barely tell a Sabyasachi ensemble from a Masaba masterpiece. But that was before I decided to indirectly get involved in the world of fashion .I now faithfully thumb through the fashion glossies to make sure that I keep myself abreast of the latest fads and 'Fashion'. Well, if there is one word that is abused and bastardized , it has to this F word, Fashion , which changes at a mercurial pace like the moods of a sullen,moody teenager. Moody or not, my fascination was piqued and I decided to read this book. A fellow blogger had also recommended this book and rated it highly.

I found Powder room brilliant, insightful and full of amusing anecdotes  Ex-editor of Marie Claire , Shefalee Vasudev has written this book like a sociologist would have, with considerable journalistic detachment. Having observed various facets of 'fashion' from close quarters , her observations and arguments don't seem sensational or voyeuristic.The book is divided into ten chapters , where Shefalee tackles a different story or talks about a certain aspect of the world of fashion. Apparently , she spoke to close to 300 odd people before writing  this book. The academic rigor and research  she has  put into this book is evident in the mind-boggling amount of data and information that hits the reader.

Right from the first chapter, where Shefalee talks about Raakesh Agarvwal , a troubled , yet hugely successful designer who was abused as a child and still has demons inside him that haunt him , to the socialite wives of Ludhiana to the lower middle class girl selling luxurry products , to the politics behind the fashion weeks , Shefalee weaves a narrative that bounces back and forth like a ping-pong ball.Yet , at no point in time will the reader feel disoriented, because the stories she has to tell are all extraordinary.
My favorite stories have to be the one about the lower middle class girl and that of the Ludhiana society ladies.  If you are looking for scandals or gossip , this might not be the book for you(of course , that aspect is there too). This book is  more an exercise in  sociology, an attempt to see where the fashion trajectory of India is headed. The chapter on models was an eye-opener. Madhur Bhandarkar probably has done a huge disservice to the model community by  talking about the negative aspects of the modelling world. Shefalee's book will make you realise that such wayward models are exceptions and not the norm. Huge egos of designers, manipulative PR agents , unscrupulous editors, appalling lack of integrity in fashion journalism..Shefalee's book talks about them all. Maybe if you just want the juicy parts, you'll still love this book.  
The chapters on Patan Patola and the last chapter on the politics at the fashion weeks makes one realise the pettiness and business-mindedness  of some factions on designer community and  the clout that the big brands have over everyone. It is disheartening to note that going by the way things are being handled old traditional weaves like the Patan Patola will probably go extinct soon.  Hats off to the family for trying to keep this art alive, but one does wonder if a more commercial approach is required by the artisan family to ensure that their craft doesn't go extinct with them. I was also moved by the chapter on Imchi Imchen and how Nagas feel alienated from the "Mainland".I am intrigued enough to want to read a book on Nagaland and how insurgency has affected the people there.   

Maybe there is an underlying tone of melancholy and desperation in the book. Certain parts of the book paints a rather bleak picture of how things are in the fashion industry , but somebody has to talk about these things.

Overall an excellent book that I 'll recommend to anyone curious about the Indian  fashion industry. Five star all the way ( I decided that I would give a five star to this book barely into 100 pages of reading this book!)
Thanks to for sponsoring my book. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Blinkers off by Andaleeb Wajid

Genre : Indian YA Fiction.
Publisher : Rupa
My rating : 3/5
Copy source : Uncle OT on behalf of author ( I suppose)

Synopsis from Goodreads

Is it going to be like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun?

Noor has no idea that this frustrating question will turn around the course of her documentary film in more ways than she can imagine. At present she is more concerned about Supriya, the college diva who will make sure that she walks away with the credit while Noor does all the hard work. Moreover, when Supriya’s gorgeous boyfriend Dennis mysteriously makes an appearance in her film-making class, Noor has to deal with her burgeoning feelings for him. The documentary is being shot at a wedding where Noor discovers the secret of the bride’s unhappiness. Should she help her out and face the wrath of the bride’s parents later? Should she involve Dennis as the bride is his friend’s sister? But as things come to a head at the wedding, Noor realises that there’s no easy solution in sight, especially when the blinkers begin to come off.(less)
My thoughts 
What a sweet little story! Blinkers's off is possibly the first Indian contemporary popular fiction I have read which has a Muslim protagonist- which was extremely appealing to me. I am not going into the plot as the synopsis does a good job of it and  if I am going to outline the plot , it will pretty much be repetitive. What I am going to talk about is the freshness of the book. I read it in a couple of days , and that is saying a lot considering the fact that I normally take a few weeks to finish any book. 
Blinkers off is fast , breezy fun book that will remind one of their college days .It is essentially a love story (a love triangle at that ). There were other reasons why I wanted to read this book.I was intrigued about how a Muslim protagonist would think. No different from anyone else , but still I wanted to read the book mainly for that. Secondly , the part about the protagonist filming a movie at a wedding also  got me all curious about how the subject would be tackled. 
Story-wise , it was pretty straight forward with all the expected misunderstandings that are the staple of any book that deals with Young adult love. No flowery language or complicated writing , just simple story telling.This , I  feel is the biggest strength of the book. Noor is an  extremely likable character, despite all her hang-ups and  insecurities , while Dennis is the quintessential Alpha male archetype that any girl would swoon over. From the supporting cast , I liked Nandita's charecterisation the best  and could somehow not tolerate Noor's mother. I found her extremely harsh and critical . Oh, I also loved Roshan ( Noor's know-it-all kiddo brother). Supriya, the supreme snob does her job well and makes us hate her from the word go. 
Overall, a sweet little book that is breezy and fun. This book was like a bowl of khichidi and ghee for me - comforting and soothing, with no major twists or complicated writing. Next time when I am looking for a breezy fun book , I know I'll consider Andaleeb's other books ( She is really prolific and has had a book coming out every year).

Thanks Uncle OT for introducing me to this author's book. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Truth Of All Things by Kieran Shields

Genre : Historical Crime fiction
My rating : 4/5
Publisher : Crown Publishers (Random House)
Copy source : Publisher


Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, in the summer of 1892, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning....
When newly appointed Deputy Marshal Archie Lean is called in to investigate a prostitute's murder in Portland, Maine, he's surprised to find the body laid out like a pentagram and pinned to the earth with a pitchfork.  He's even more surprised to learn that this death by "sticking" is a traditional method of killing a witch. 
     Baffled by the ritualized murder scene, Lean secretly enlists the help of historian Helen Prescott and brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey.  Distrusted by officials because of his mixed Abenaki Indian ancestry, Grey is even more notorious for combining modern investigative techniques with an almost eerie perceptiveness.  Although skeptical of each other's methods, together the detectives pursue the killer's trail through postmortems and opium dens, into the spiritualist societies and lunatic asylums of gothic New England.
     Before the killer closes in on his final victim, Lean and Grey must decipher the secret pattern to these murders--a pattern hidden within the dark history of the Salem witch trials.
My Thoughts
I have always have a morbid fascination for the Salem witch trials . Actually ,make that all things esoteric or things that logical reasoning has no answers for. Which is why I wanted to read this book.  The idea of this book is brilliant ,and so is  the execution. I have immense respect for any writer attempting historical fiction and can only imagine the amount of research that would have gone into creating an authentic feel .
 Though this is Kieran's first book , it doesn't feel like a work by a debutant author. I loved the charecterisation of  both Preceval Grey and Archie Lean , and feel that this is a hit combo that needs to be watched out for. Grey's reserve and single mindedness is the perfect foil for Lean's earnestness. Both are immensely likable in their own ways and will remind you of Holmes and Dr Watson in more ways than one.Their verbal sparring (in jest , of course) and banter makes the book rather enjoyable.  I also liked other characters who help the duo race against time (Helen and Dr Steig) and look forward to reading Kieran's next book. 
 Story line-wise , I thought that the first hundred off pages were a little dragging , but once the murders start happening frequently , the pace picks up. The ending , though not very unexpected is handled very efficiently and will keep you on the tenterhooks. The author has brilliantly captured Portland in 1892 .  
  Overall , a nice read brimming with a wealth of information on the Salem Witch Trials  and a investigating duo that is fun.   

THanks to Crown publishing for sending me this copy yo review. All ideas and opinions in this review are mine and only mine.