Colorful Notions: The Roadtrippers 1.0

booking-page-1Blurb: Would you give up your high-paying job and comfortable personal life to drive ten thousand kilometres across India? Just for fun!

Three twenty-something’s dare to do just that! While the two boys take turns to drive, the girl gives voice-over as they record their entire journey on a handy cam. Ab, Sasha and Unnati are ordinary youngsters, rendered special by the feat they accomplish. As they recount their adventures, I crave to live their journey. They look at each other with a glint in their eyes, as if refurbishing those memories while narrating their spooky time at Bhangarh Fort, strange escapades at Wagah Border and Sundarbans, car breakdowns, wild animals, near-death experiences and highway robbers! It’s nothing less than crazy.

I doubted if I’d ever have the gumption to create such experiences. So I did the next best thing – I penned a book about them and their road trip.

Colorful Notions is a journey of three young hearts on the Indian terrain and into the inner recesses of their souls, giving a new perspective to relationships, love and life.

The very first line from the blur of this book had me typing out a quick acceptance to review this book! And why not?? I have dreamed of something like this for most of my life and continue to do so! In my dreams I  explore the temples around India and their secrets or live in the Tuscan countryside, doing organic farming, creating recipes, reading and writing. Then the bubble pops (or the phone rings) and I am bang in the midst of the challenges that my mediocre life offers!  And I have never been happier while typing out a review for a book than I am now. The book met my expectations of going on an amazing journey across the length and breadth of India from the comfort of my own couch!

Three friends, Abhay (Ab), Sashank (Sasha) and Unnati (Unns) embark on a soul-searching road trip to about 25 places scattered over the wonder that is India. Each have their own reason (or not) to set on this arduous journey that would test their physical and emotional states of mind. Abhay wants to move away from his troubled past and a strained relationship with his parents. Having nothing to hold him back, he conceptualizes the trip and the idea to make a movie about the trip. His bestie and loyal sidekick Sasha, cannot help but join his buddy while escaping an over protective family and the pressures of having to conform to societal norms, in order to live it up without being judged. They convince Sasha’s girl friend, an assistant RJ who is a bit clueless about where her life is headed, to join them on their journey while also being the voice over of their movie. Friendship and love is challenged as they spend time in close quarters. True feelings make their appearances as jealousies are revealed, while emotional baggages threaten to destroy what could be beautiful and love is lost and found. What happens at the end of the journey? Do they find what they set out to discover? How does this trip change them?

From this point on it is a fun-filled emotional roller coaster as they try to spot tigers at the Corbett National park, take a dip in the Ganges at Haridwar, battle altitude sickness at Ladakh /Leh, cause a security threat at the Wagah border, chase and be chased by ghosts at Bhangarh fort at Alwar, get caught in the marshlands and quick-sands at Runn of Kutch and finally encounter a man-eater at the Sunderbans while setting foot on Bangladeshi borders and even obtain enlightenment at Gaya! If this is not enough, you will get to read about the culinary delight that is India, as your senses take in the description of delicacies like the momos at Ladakh, Hyderbadi biryanis, Lucknowi Kebabs, Punjabi chicken, Goan seafood, Udupi cuisine and of course Idli, sambar and chutney and other rice delicacies from my very own Tamil Nadu!

The language is wonderfully simple and immediately draws you in as the fourth member of this motley group! The chapter  where the group spends a night at a haunted fort will have you sitting at the end of your reading chair and at some point even send a shock down your spine! The book manages to impart some simple lessons while not being preachy. Some of the chapters will have you thinking about the life we live, our expectations from it and our perspectives on happiness… For example the following lines about how one feels on a road trip and why we can’t try living our lives the same way left me in a contemplative mood for sometime.

…there comes a point in your life when you leave your past behind too far and the future seems too distant. You start breathing the air that is around you at the moment,you think about the place you are currently at, and the meal you will have next. That is when you will truly start living in the present.

There are more gems scattered about the pages of this book. Words that will touch our heart and if we are lucky even sow seeds for personal growth.  I personally loved reading about the Lama’s speech and the events that followed after, which kind of re-establishes the fact that when you want something and go all out to do it, the universe will make it happen.

The cover of the book with its water painting effect is quite appealing and the title that has a version attached to it, makes me wonder if there will be a sequel.

Let me finish my saying this: If you want to hear stories about a jungle Goddess called “Banobibi” and learn all about listening to your inner voice (which seems to be the core concept of his book ) from a Lama, no matter what age you are this book is for you, it is for the adventurer in you and more essentially the dreamer in you.

Now, if only I could give up my day job….. 🙂

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.

The Speaking Ghosts of Rajpur


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Book Blurb: It is India of early 1990s – the ‘picturesque’ small-town of Rajpur is in ‘full summer bloom’ and there is a definite sense of mystery in the air. Amidst its scenic setting each year a group of boys band together to spend their summer vacations – going cycling to far-off forests, sharing books, discussing everything under the sky and ogling at girls…

But as youth would have it, their curious minds are more inclined to seek adventure and (hopefully!) uncover some mysterious affair. However, unlike their previous vain attempts, this time certain unusual events and the sudden appearance of a curious case of a ghost in their midst seem to hold the promise of some real adventure.

In the pages of The Speaking Ghost of Rajpur rest assured you will soon be whisked off and plunged into a headlong journey of adventure and romance of your own – on a path of discovery of friendship and brotherhood, of life and love – and, who knows, you might even get to encounter the Speaking Ghost itself!

A bunch of friends, a summer when days are longer than nights,lazy afternoons spent doing nothing, reading comics or in siesta, first crushes and all the little tales that fill young adolescent live…Now, add an abduction, terrible tales of human sacrifice, a conman and a self-declared Swamiji and you have “The Speaking Ghosts of Rajpur”

An extremely detailed account of an unforgettable summer in the life of Shoumo, who along with his brother Shaumik joins his cousin Joy to spend their summer holidays in the sleepy town of Rajpur. I started reading the book waiting for ghosts to appear and start their ruckus anytime but then got drawn into the lives of the main characters and their plans for the hot summer days. Reading a book like this will definitely make a reader pause and reflect on their own childhoods and adventures that came with it. The author has done a wonderful job in recreating the small town like Rajpur and has given it a lot of color making it pulse with life. It reminded me of another popular sleepy town from Indian literature – Malgudi! Every character that appeared in the book seemed to have a story to share and the local scene and scenery of Rajpur has been detailed very well.

This being said I should be honest and admit that the book was a little too detailed, almost to the point of exhausting in some places! I was once given a piece of advice from a fellow writer about how a successful author should avoid over the top details and leave something to the imagination of his / her readers. This book definitely suffers from this issue wherein the reader a subject to loads of details about the friends, their friends and almost everything they did that summer before actually getting to the core plot.

Speaking of the plot, it is definitely a very good one especially something that would appeal to the inner detective within us! If only the plot did not suffer from its sudden appearance and disappearance throughout the book, it would have been a more thrilling read.

The cover of the book deserves a special mention. Having created by the author himself, the cover is an ode to a carefree childhood and of course the author’s artistic streak –  A perfect face for this book. 

In spite of what I have mentioned the book was a pleasant read. Remember the first time you watched a horror movie with a friend and pretended not to be afraid? Or how about doing something utterly ridiculous and maybe even slightly dangerous so that you would be accepted into the “IT Circle” at school? This book is all that and more – a blast into the past, a time machine that takes you back to a time when there were no responsibilities or barriers, when everyday was filled with pure joy, where every little discovery  and first experiences mattered – A reading experience to cherish from first time author Priyonkar Dasgupta.

I would definitely recommend the book to those that can devote some quality reading time in their lives. I would like to sign off wishing you a happy journey to you childhood!

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.

The Compass Box Killer

Image Courtesy: Internet

Image Courtesy: Internet

This book is a crime thriller, set in the by-lanes of Mumbai. One muggy afternoon, a senior police officer is found murdered at his desk. When Inspector Virkar from the Crime Branch arrives at the scene, he finds a cryptic note that spills out of a tudent’s compass box. Then begins a series of killings and in each, a telltale compass box reveals more clues.

Accompanied by the attractive, ambitious TV reporter, Raashi Hunerwal, Virkar has to race against time to catch the Compass Box Killer before the bodies pile up. As the investigation shuttles from Mumbai to Khandala to Belgaum, Virkar is taken deep into a labyrinth of backroom deals that lead to shocking revelations about the ruthless killer’s motives.

Slick plot twists and high-adrenaline action mark the first of the Inspector Virkar crime Thrillers—part of the Mumbaistan series. Tough, daring and relentless in his pursuit of justice, Inspector Virkar is a policeman one wishes every city had.

Plot Summary

The blurb says it all! Inspector Vikram is assigned to investigate the murder case of a senior police official who is found dead at his desk. What the coroner tries to close as an open and shut case due to food poisoning,  takes on a different turn as Virkar discovers an old and worn out compass box with a clue to the killers next victim. From here on the search for the killer who has been coined “The Compass Box Killer”, is a game of cat and mouse that Virkar has to win (with very little support from the crime branch and exaggerated supported from beautiful TV reporter Raashi) in order to protect the lives of high-profile citizens of Mumbai.

  • Does Virkar succeed?
  • How are the victims connected?
  • Is Raashi everything that she seems to be?
  • What is the motive of the “The Compass Box Killer”?

My thoughts

Personally, I loved reading this book. It has all the elements that could make a great Bollywood masala entertainer which I guess is only normal given the authors background! In fact I could draw comparisons to the Hindi  movie “Baazigar” 🙂 once I finished reading this book which can essentially be termed as a classic tale of revenge with the usual elements of such a saga like:

  • A  crime reeking with sleaze

  • A coverup

  • An affected party who decides its time for payback and

  • An intelligent police officer who tries to discover the truth

I felt that the motive and the identity of the killer was predictable and the details were given away a bit too prematurely. It would have been more fun, if the author had led the readers stew a bit. But I guess, this is agreeable considering that the book was a short read [234 pages]. I loved the way the life and personality of Inspector Virkar has been portrayed; who cannot love a no-nonsense cop, a young and modern one at that, with a passion to go beyond the call of duty? In times like these when we still see cops who look like they have never run on a treadmill leave alone a thief or just seem clueless and disinterested, makes the idea of an inspector like Virkar tick.

I could not get how someone like Virkar, easily falls for a woman like Raashi, when she never comes across as sincere from her very first meeting with the inspector. It is quite obvious to the reader that she comes across as someone who would do anything to get her 30 minutes of fame and is probably hanging around with Virkar only to extract the details of the high-profile murder case.

The “the compass box killer” makes a close to perfect anti-hero to Inspector Virkars act. **Probable Spoiler ALert Begins** What was great about the plot was the fact that at some point in time, both Virkar and  the killer seemed to be bouncing ideas off each other in terms of discovering the identity of the last victim.The emotions that the killer goes through,the reasoning behind his revenge saga and the history of his relationship with his mentor seem pretty flat!**Probable Spoiler ALert Ends** The manner in which the plot ends lets me believe that the compass box killer may make an appearance in other books of the Mumbaistan series.

The book is a page turner for the most part, has an interesting cover with a catch line and an even better blurb. The author has tried to model his characters based on some popular American crime shows like Law and Order, CSI and the like..He also succeeds to a certain extent but then fails to retain the mysteriousness of the characters or the plot which  makes for more gripping drama as far as crime fiction is concerned.

I know I am repeating this but I felt like I was a reading a movie rather than watching one!  A good read if you are a sucker for crime fiction like I am!

About the Author

Piyush Jha is an acclaimed film director, ad filmmaker and a first-time novelist. A student political leader at university, he pursued a career in advertising management later acquiring an MBA degree. Later, he switched tracks, first to make commercials for some of the country’s largest brands, and then write and direct feature films. His films include Chalo America, King of Bollywood and Sikandar. He lives in his beloved Mumbai, where he can often be found walking the streets that inspire his stories.

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

The Bankster

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Bankers build their careers on trust, or so everyone thinks, till a series of murders threaten to destroy the reputation that the Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2) has built over the years. Who is behind these killings, and what is their motive? Is the banker at GB2 turning into a bankster? Or was he always one?

When Karan Panjabi, press reporter and ex-banker, digs deeper, he realizes that he has stumbled upon a global conspiracy with far reaching ramifications a secret that could not only destroy the bank but also cast a shadow on the entire nation. With only thirty-six hours at his disposal, he must fight the clock and trust no one if he is to stay alive and uncover the truth.

“Yet another book from an IIM alumnus” I thought when I heard about this book for the first time. “Apparently one needs a master’s degree worth several lakhs to become a published author these days!!” was another annoying thread of thought running  through my mind. To add to the ideas about the book were my misgivings about the slightly vague excerpt from the back of the book, but the frequent likes by a friend on Facebook about the various promotions regarding the book and the unique name “The Bankster” (I should say I have never heard this term before nor thought of a banker being a gangster) inspired me to apply for a review copy.

I read past the prologue – I still felt kind of vague. Then I read about 2 chapters; I was intrigued!! By the time I finished the book I was truly impressed!  Who would think that some of the stuff that goes down inside a bank would have connections to isolated incidents concerning blood diamonds in Africa and the fight against nuclear weapons in India. This is one of those rare books where the excerpt on the back of the book does not impress much, but the actual contents do more than deliver!

When employees of GB2 start dying under mysterious circumstances, it is anybodies guess as to what might be going on. But when a straight forward compliance officer, Raymond starts digging into the case and discovers shocking facts of fraudulent transactions, he ends up dead on the docks outside Mumbai with a suicide note conveniently tucked inside his pocket. What did he know that cost him his life?

When ex-banker and Raymond’s mentor Karan, who gave up his banking career to become a journalist picks up the clues, the CEO of GB2, Indrani is faced with some rude truths about her senior management and their capability to snuff lives out of innocents to protect themselves and their interests. The facts throw her into a state of nervousness as these discoveries could rock the banking giant out of business once the media gets involved. She hires Karan to get to the bottom of the mess at GB2  opening up a can of worms, leading to shocking revelations about the top tiers of the organizations pyramid. What this team discovers towards the end of the book is something that nobody would expect – at least not a reader like me!

It seemed like I was caught up in a parallel world; a world where only numbers matter; a world where managers do anything to meet these numbers – be it dirty sales techniques or brushing aside compliance processes.  A world with questionable HR hiring practices and scams that involve the creme de la creme of senior management and finally a world where ethics seem to take a back seat. Every character in this book could be someone you would have met, if you have worked in a corporate – not necessarily Financial or Banking firm.

For those in the corporate world of banking and financing and even those that work in an IT industry as a part of the Financial and banking domain will no longer feel the same way about its top management! Though this may not come as a surprise to most, the author has done well to bring out some of the muck when it comes to hiring, firing, appraisal, normalization and cover ups in any organization…I can see most of you smiling already but honestly the author has made it seem like the HR adds no value to an organization!!

Honesty, power, greed, lust, sycophancy and more figure throughout the book as the battle between what is good or rather what seems to be good vs everything that seems wrong with this world and in particular our culture takes front seat! The book was a true page turner and had me hooked until the end. I finished it within a day. The author has woven an edge of the seat thriller by combining his knowledge of banking practices and experiences in the banking industry along with other social causes. A truly wining combination. The cover of the book claims that the author “Ravi Subramaniam” to be the John Grisham of Banking and I truly agree.

Who can you trust if not your banker? Well just read this book and you will never feel the same about your bank or personal banker again! The climax is something that not many can guess or predict but one thing is for sure – you will never feel the same about smooth talking dynamic men in suits nor impeccably dressed women who seem to have it all together!

And if you are wondering about the connections to blood diamonds and nuclear weapons that I mentioned in the beginning, do read this amazing book to find out! Trust  me it is worth it!!  I wish I could lay my hands on the other books by this author!!

Rating: 4.5/5

This review is a part of the  Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Scammed – Confessions of a confused accountant

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Author – Anonymous

Publisher – Grey Oaks

Price – 175/-

Rating – 4/5

What do you get when you throw together a talented, hardworking, overworked and underpaid accountant, his sneaky snake of a boss, a gold digging girlfriend, un-approving parents and the promises of a job offer that will take him from zero to hero? Well, you get a book called “Scammed”

An excerpt of the book:

Life is miserable for Hitesh Shah, despite his coveted job in a top accounting firm. Labeled a nerd by colleagues, ignored by women and rebuked by parents, Hitesh cannot resist when offered a lucrative job as the CEO of an off shoot of the failing automobile company, Supreme Motors. So what if the owner Venugopal Reddy, a sleazy businessman with political connections, actually wants Hitesh to fix the company to save his skin?

Hitesh’s drive and quest for success helps turn the Company’s fortunes around; he is seen a rising corporate star, he begins dating a model and is pampered by parents. Championed as the poster boy of emerging India, Hitesh’s fairy tale ends quickly. As his cursed luck would have it, he is soon on the run from the law? Allegedly as the perpetrator of a financial scam and accused of defrauding thousands of investors! With his back against the wall, and growing public and media opinion against him, will Hitesh come out of the mess he finds himself in?

Keeping in tune with the excerpt, the book definitely delivers. The book is a racy read and I finished it within few hours. The story is the stuff dreams are made of – the under dog emerges to become the youth icon of India and becomes everybody’s poster boy for hard work and success. There are those that use him to get where and what they want and those that just want him out of the way.  Close at the heels of a rising career, life for Hitesh takes a dark turn when his career and reputation crumbles amidst political chaos, stock market crashes and heart breaks.

The attitude, integrity and turmoil’s of the main protagonist who struggles between doing what is right and the  temptations of the trappings of a glamorous life has been very interestingly etched by the “Anonymous” author.

All the characters have been detailed in a  believable way. The sleaze and conscience quotient of those engaging in un-ethical and immoral activities to fatten their foreign bank accounts with colored money or the extent to which they would go to achieve their ambitions will not come as a surprise to any reader living in India today.

Well, good needs to balance out evil and for this sake we have  loyal friends and colleagues who help Hitesh at their own risk. Of course, there are no plots without heart breaks,  love lost and real love found which in this case is an “Ugly Betty” (Remember “Jassi jaise koi nahin”??) type of assistant who stays by the main protagonist through his dipping fortunes and continues to stay for the long haul.

Another factor of the book, that catches the reader’s attention is that the name of the author has been listed as “Anonymous”. Well, I did some googling and discovered that it has been written by none other than Ahmed Faiyaz who is a chartered accountant and  the author of books such as Love, Life and all that jazz, Another Chance etc.,

Well, well, well – what can I say? I was not so full of love for his earlier book, Love, Life and all that jazz but was pleasantly surprised with this one.  He has definitely capitalized on his strength of defining the characters well. If he continues to write fiction like this I might become a regular reader of his books. If you are intrigued, check out his blog or his website.

To me the book was a cross between the movies “Wall Street” and “The Fugitive”, but set in India! I did wonder why the story was not narrated by the main protagonist, considering the title extension “Confessions of a confused accountant” – there are no confessions though 8O

Definitely recommended for readers who consider scams a part of life, accountants and lovers of contemporary desi fiction!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!