Saturday, July 27, 2013

What Meg Cabot book characters teach me! :)

This post is part of the Meg-a-Readers blog hop, hosted by Mandy at The Romance Bookie and Diana at Little Miss Drama Queen to celebrate Meg Cabot's two new releases! Awaken, the third book in the Abandon trilogy and another Heather Wells book, Size 12 is the New Black! For this post I've decided to mention some characters from the Meg Cabot books I've read and what I could learn from their personalities and behavior! ;) 


1. Mia Thermopolis (Princess Diaries series): You know how they say, some characters stay with you long after you've read a book? I haven't read all books in The Princess Diaries series. I started reading them late and I just didn't get to all of them, but I have always been in love with Amelia's character. For one, she is portrayed as just another ordinary girl (with the minor defect of her being a princess, yes) who has to deal with the usual high school problems. I could probably relate to her more because of my own inherent ability of being a klutz during all my waking moments, but I'm sure even for normal people, she's pretty much relate-able. 

Thinking of her character constantly reminds me to:
- Not bite my fingernails. Even fake ones.
- Not stare at a guy's lips, because your 'boyfriend' can possibly notice you noticing the other person's lips (not that I have a boyfriend, but still. Anyone observant enough can notice).
- Always wear nice pajamas during a sleepover.
- Be brave enough to refuse what you don't want to do, unless you're being threatened by a possible cousin who wants your throne.
- Pick up intelligent sounding words from smart friends like Lilly, and later look them up to improve your vocab.
- Be courteous to everyone, especially maids of honor. ;)
- Always smile. :)

2. Lilly Moscovitz (Princess Diaries series): Although she's the character opposite to how I could ever be, she did inspire me to:
- Speak my own thoughts without caring about what the rest of the population would think.
- Start using intelligent sounding words, because they can totally make your best friends think around in circles.
-  Have your own 'thing', something you regularly contribute to, like she has her own cable access TV show. I have my book blog. It kind of comes close. Okay it doesn't, but still. It's my 'thing'. ;)
- Be smart enough to guess whether or not your best friend is lying about their PMS status. Their crankiness could be a result of something really major. 


3. Michael Moscovitz (Princess Diaries series): What isn't there to learn from this guy? 
- Work for quirky magazines like Crackhead
- Play End of the World with sister's best friend, who happens to have a forever crush on you.
- Tell the aforementioned sister's best friend you love her too, through a cheesy poem flashing on the screen of a computer when she's trying to test your computer during the school fair.
- Love your crush's pet.
Oh Michael. ^_^
4. Heather Wells (Heather Wells series): When I read about her saying Size 12 is the size of the average American woman and one should not refer to size anyway, I loved her! Heather taught me to:
- Not believe in college kids' lame excuses for covering up dumb things and the mess they created.
- Having sugar-coated snacks everyday, even after wondering if it's not contributing to your size.
- Being independent, strong, and acting on intuition.
- Imagining yourself getting together with the guy you secretly love. Positive thinking makes it true.
- Keeping jealousy out of your mind when solving a suspicious case. 

5. Cooper Cartwright (Heather Wells series): I might be biased here, because Cooper Cartwright is my biggest fictional crush. 
- Stay calm in all situations. Even if it involves a death dormitory and your brother's ex.
- Don't give more than a passing glance to all girls, like creeps do. Keep your attitude, it makes you sexier.
- Keep details of work a secret even from your in-home accountant. Mysteriousness is a characteristic that makes you more appealing. ;)
- Get together with brother's ex, who secretly loves you too! 
- Follow your heart. Don't stick with family businesses if you think it's not your thing and you want to be a private investigator. Love your grandad, you don't know, he might leave you his brownstone apartment.  

5. Jean Honeychurch (Jinx): I like this clumsy girl, nicknamed 'Jinx' because she happens to bring bad luck (she doesn't).
- Self-confidence and will power.
- Not letting annoying and jealous cousins ruin your friendships.
- Always clearing a misunderstanding.
- Being brave and believing in witchcraft, however esoteric it might be.

6. Emerson Watts (Airhead trilogy): When you know you're not the girl everyone thinks you are, when you know your friends and the love of your life believe you to be dead, when you suspect a secret racket behind all the mysterious happenings and you still gotta cope with it and model on, I think you're really brave!
- Ordering banana splits whenever you or your friend feel low.
- Trying to control yourself seeing your love feeling angry and depressed and not being able to do anything about it.
- Putting self-obsessed people in their right place by putting their limo on fire.
- Never giving up on family.
- Making full use of technological devices when in a tight situation. They might be life-saving. 

I also wish to include Sam Madison from All American Girl who is one girl whose confidence is worth applauding. She's also one for standing up for herself and the truth. Pierce Olivera is a fighter, Tina Hakim Baba reads during lunch too, John Hayden is so persistent! Basically, I love all Meg Cabot characters, but these are those that stay with me. Which ones do you like? :)



Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: Dhandha by Shobha Bondre

Shobha Bondre
Title: Dhandha, How Gujaratis Do Business
Author: Shobha Bondre
Translated by: Shalaka Walimbe
Published: Random Business, May 2013
Pages: 281
Price: Rs. 199 (Discounted to Rs. 119 at Flipkart)
Genre: Non-Fiction
My Rating: 4/5!

What is the book about?
The Blurb says:

Dhandha, meaning business, is a term often used in common trade parlance in India. But there is no other community that fully embodies what the term stands for than the Gujaratis.

Shobha Bondre’s Dhandha is the story of a few such Gujaratis: Jaydev Patel—the New York Life Insurance agent credited with having sold policies worth $2.5 billion so far; Bhimjibhai Patel—one of the country’s biggest diamond merchants and co-founder of the ambitious ‘Diamond Nagar’ in Surat; Dalpatbhai Patel—the motelier who went on to become the mayor of Mansfield County; Mohanbhai Patel—a former Sheriff of Mumbai and the leading manufacturer of aluminium collapsible tubes; and Hersha and Hasu Shah—owners of over a hundred hotels in the US.

Travelling across continents—from Mumbai to the United States—in search of their story and the common values that bond them, Dhandha showcases the powerful ambition, incredible capacity for hard work, and the inherent business sense of the Gujaratis.

My Thoughts!
If you've been following my blog since some time, you'd have noticed the astonishingly huge gap between the number of Fiction and Non-Fiction books. I prefer Fiction any time. Although I've now started looking at Non-Fiction as immense sources of useful information too! It might be because of the realization that I'm actually doing an MBA or maybe because I just got some mature-ness in the way I perceive things. In short, it's time for Non-Fiction too. Dhandha seemed to be an ideal choice because one, it was on business and two, it seemed to be interesting! Yes, the cover is okay-ish, not too appealing, but the blurb was intriguing, right? And frankly, I had heard my dad speaking a lot about the business sense of Gujaratis. I wanted to know what it is all about. I've been feeling quite pleased (and inspired) after reading this book. Essentially a compilation of five successful business stories, Dhandha explores the lives and the steps towards success each of them lived through, in great detail. 

The book is a compilation of five success stories, five businessmen belonging to the Gujarati community from different kinds of personal backgrounds. The underlying force that these people have in common is their business blood. Their amazing sense of finding out opportunities for carrying out businesses and the immense amount of hard work and relentless efforts they put in to see their business reaching the stars! It's amazing to read about their life stories from scratch, how the idea for a business took seed and how it grew. These are definitely not fairy tales. The essence of the book is to highlight the differentiating factor, the thing that distinguishes Gujaratis from the rest of the world when it comes to business and the book beautifully portrays it. The stories are not just about how their businesses grew, but also about the whole family of the businessman and how they helped, the unforeseen events, the troubles and obstacles they faced, the failures, but the best thing in all these stories was the amazing attitude for success and persistence these people showed. 

For example, Mohanbhai Patel (leading producer of collapsible aluminium tubes in the world) in his story, The Circle of Life talks about how once while experimenting with a new machine tool for producing opthalmic nozzle tubes (used for packing eye ointment) with aluminium (usually tin is used all over the world. This was the first time anyone tried using aluminium), the machine tool broke down and he tried not three, four or five times, but 30 times! That was when it worked! I mean, if the tool keeps on breaking, you'd abandon the idea after maximum ten times, right? It's quite something to try it till you get what you want. Another thing I loved about this whole understanding of their business sense is how they are still so humble and modest. Most of them (four stories out of five are about Patels) have reached immense heights of success, some in India, some based in US, but they've always helped others in many different ways and shared ideas and information. Their decency and humbleness was what I liked best, apart from the infused enthusiasm for "more". The only thing I did not identify well with was how almost all of them have been working hard, all the time, leaving little time for family. In all the cases the whole family was involved. Yes, not forcefully, but still I think it does have an impact on the kind of relationships you have with your kids.   

The narrative is in first person, mostly from the point of view of the main protagonist of the story. Where there were more people involved, like in some cases there were family members, the story continues from their POVs as well. I found the writing style simple. Sometimes I felt it was too simple for my taste, but that could have been because of translation. I'm not sure. It was still a gripping read, mostly because stories were well structured and written in a way that gives you a neat, step-by-step account of someone's life and business events and milestones and troubles. The stories were definitely super-interesting! I don't have any favorite because I liked all of them for their own USPs. Yep, I'm more inclined towards those with the businessmen who lived and established themselves in India itself. I agree, those who went abroad to the US had a hard time settling down, getting jobs, starting a business, then gradually expanding and ultimately being successful. But I'm more appreciative of those who made use of resources available in India. I absolutely loved the story of Bhimjibhai Patel, a diamond merchant who started from scratch. Literally. He didn’t know languages apart from Gujarati, but he proved that language is no barrier. It’s only the hard work, intense dedication, practical approach, readiness to learn and the inborn enthusiasm to see themselves as successful businessmen that matters.  

The book is definitely inspirational! Personally, I feel inspired to not feel scared of challenges, for there is proof that you can achieve anything you want if you really work hard and smart for it. I also feel like not complaining when I don't get enough time to enjoy my hobbies or to sleep. If you're looking for inspiration, you must read this book. It's not boring at all! :D

PS- The five stories were about these people:
1. Bhimjibhai Patel, diamond merchant
2. Mohanbhai Patel, world's leading producer of collapsible aluminium tubes 
3. Dalpatbhai Patel, owner of motels in US and Mayor of Mansfield Township
4. Jaydev Patel, renowned Life Insurance Agent 
5. Hasu and Hersha Shah, owners of the Hersha Group (having more than 100 hotels)

Truly amazing stories! :D

Thank you Random House publishers for this book! :)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: Popular by Alissa Grosso

Alissa Grosso
Title: Popular
Author: Alissa Grosso
Published: 2011 by Llewellyn Publications
Pages: 325
Price: Rs. 199
My Rating: 4/5!

Goodreads Blurb!

Meet the clique that rules Fidelity High: Olivia, Zelda, Nordica, and Shelly, each one handpicked by ├╝ber-popular Hamilton Best. You know you're "in" when you make the guest list for one of Hamilton's parties. And in the thralls of senior year, everyone wants to get noticed by Hamilton.


But Hamilton's elite entourage is coming apart at the seams. Olivia fantasizes about finally having a boyfriend, Zelda dreams of ditching high school, Nordica wants to be alone with her photography, and Shelly's plotting to dethrone Hamilton. Lies and secrets are ripping away the careful ties that have kept them together for years. But Hamilton has the biggest secret of all, one that only her boyfriend Alex knows. If the truth got out, it would shock everyone and destroy Hamilton's fragile world—and she'll do anything to protect her secret and keep her clique together.


My Thoughts!
Popular caught my attention as a refresher book that I could do with. I had been reading a lot of 'heavy' books and this seemed like your average, typical high-school clique-ish, girly novel. A quickie fix for your too-much-emotional syndrome. A reminiscence of your past, when you read a lot of high school-ish books. It was good to read this one. I was rescued from the boring life of traveling in the metro trains to college without having anything to do, because I read Popular on my daily-travels-to-college trips. The first part of the book is titled, "The Clique" and each chapter is from the point of view of a different person, part of Hamilton's clique. Hamilton is like the queen bee in high school, lately more worried about graduation as it would be the end of the life she had built for herself. Fidelity High wasn't just a school for her, but a castle she made for herself. She was respected and loved.


The other members of the clique were special, hand-picked by Hamilton herself. Each of those girls is different when it comes to personality. Shelly's too arrogant and hates Hamilton, Olivia, Hamilton's friend since kindergarten, is trying to over throw her, Nordica doesn't want to be part of the clique anymore, Zelda wants to ditch high school completely. The story goes about describing the final year of high school and all that happens in school, shown from different POVs. It seems like a story about the clique. Then there's Alex, Hamilton's boyfriend who's just surprised and amazed that Hamilton picked him for her boyfriend. Now, as the story progresses and after the initial few chapters when we're introduced to the different members, it tends to get a bit conflicting. Alex seems to be staying not just with Hamilton, but worried about other members of the clique too, which made me judge Alex quite harshly. Hamilton seemed to love him and depend on him so much, so what did he think he was doing? Fooling around with his girlfriend's best friends?

With frequent changes in POVs, it also gets a bit confusing, if you don't recall all names easily. It's easy to get muddled up and hard to get accustomed to the style of writing. The writing is clear, no doubt. It even has an element of attraction to it, you really want to know what's going on, even if you might have been bored with whatever happened so far. It's interesting that way. I'd be honest. Up until 200 pages, I was deeply in Fidelity High's life, reading like a naive reader, not focusing on details and just shooing away little irritations which were actually hints, hinting about something big. Turns out this isn't just a high school story after all. When the first weird thing, instead of happening on the sidelines, happens right in your face, you're left with an open, astounded mouth, wondering what the hell ever happened. I think this book has the biggest weirdest twist I have ever read and if you're not the kind to read high school stories, just this twist might make it worth your time. 

Part 2 is from Alex's point-of-view, gradually divulging the details about Hamilton's life, the past and everything as Alex saw it. The reality. It is mind-numbing and definitely makes you like the book a hell lot more. If you were bored with the cat-fights and bringing-each-other-down till the bomb-ish twist, you'd be happy you got so far. After the twist, there was no backing off, no waiting to read it on the train journeys. I read it sitting in college, oblivious to everyone chattering around, and then at home, comfortably under the covers. I'd call it a beautiful book. Alright, you'll get that feeling only after the first half, but still. Also, if you're anyway looking for a light read or are fond of high school based stories, you'd like this one all the more. The descriptions are actually different. Not too many details about the main characters' families, only focusing on their feelings and actions. The way the POVs were separate might be troubling you, but you'd easily forgive that because that's the essence of the book. ^_^

It's the kind of book that people would read mostly because of the big secret, which I can't and won't divulge. I can say it'd be worth it! If you read this and love it too, let me know! :) Leaving with some lines I marked from the book:


'People are so much more fun when they're uninhibited'

'In general, people can be pretty boring. That's not politically correct to say, but it's true. A person can be cute and funny and all, but after a while you're going to get bored, wondering if there's someone else who's cuter and funnier and just different. Boredom is the number one killer of relationships. Maybe true love is simply finding that one person who never stops being interesting to you'

'Sometimes the thing about growing up is that it allows you to see the world in a whole new way'

Thank you Jaico publishers for a copy of this book! :)




Thursday, July 4, 2013

Reviewing Quirks...

Being a bookworm is awesome, although we've got our own share of quirks and stuff that feels like creepy crawlies trawling along on our arm! I'm not going to talk about that. When I started with this blog, I had no idea I would be doing whatever I'm doing right now. Seriously, if you go look at the initial posts and the reviews I post now, you wouldn't believe they're by the same (insert adjectives synonymous with 'intelligent' and 'sweet' and alright, naive too) girl. I've learned a lot yes, and most of it has been totally unexpected and exceedingly exciting! :D (Shamelessly I'm saying again, if you're someone who'll pay me for reading-and okay, reviewing- and if you like what I write, hire me :P ). However we do come with our own share of weirdness and quirks and I'm sure, book bloggers would agree!

1. Having to answer the question, "What book would you suggest me?"
This is the question I'm confronted with the most. Knowing that someone values my opinion is definitely charming, though it brings with it a sense of responsibility, don't you think? If someone sincerely asks for a book recommendation, I'd want to suggest something they'd really like, because that way they'd read even more, right? Answering the question makes me nervous, though. I first want to know what kind of a book they prefer. There are all sorts of books! How do I know what they'd like to read? Those who define a category are easier to deal with. Those who answer mechanically, 'whatever you think is good' are the hard nuts to crack. What I like might be something you would hate. It's such a risky answer. But then if your recommendation turned out successful, it feels more than awesome. :D

2. Giving review books priority over books you have been dying to read.
You salivate just looking at bookstores, kiosks with discounted books, amazing offers online and end up buying gorgeous books you want to just sit down and read. Anytime, anywhere. You bring them home, make a place for them on your bookshelf-shrine and lean back to admire how perfect they look. Then your eyes land upon the 'review' pile, books you've received for reviews and your heart drops down slightly, because sometimes you want to read what your heart says and not what you signed up for. In the end, before you know it, you're reading review books and it's been months since you read the first book in the Vampire Academy series and the rest of them are still stacked, unread, witnessing your sad, droopy, puppy eyed looks. 

3. Making reviews interesting...... and different.
Especially with similar books, or books by the same author where the writing style is very similar (obviously), you've got to think a lot and delve deep into what you actually feel about the book, because otherwise all your reviews would end up being somewhat similar. And hence, boring. Which I don't personally want my reviews to be. (Tell me if you think the reviews seem boring or repetitive?). Picking up from some blogger, where I read about this technique the blogger uses, I now make notes of the points I wish to talk about in the review. There are certain things that come to mind when I'm reading and it is 100% likely I'll forget it soon, so I note down those thoughts and it actually gives me a lot to write about when I'm finally down writing a review. Plus, with all the book bloggers and lovers out in the blogosphere, it does take effort to effectively bring out your love and thoughts on books. Something that makes your reviews different and useful! 

4. Tasting a different dish. And not liking it.
Sometimes you feel so tempted with a book available for review, even though it's not your usual kind of a book, you might have been attracted to it's cover (like psychos like me do), or whatever reason, you get a book, the kind you never read before and unfortunately, you end up understanding that it's actually not your kind of a dish. The reading experience feels forced and reviewing becomes even more difficult, because you try not to be biased. Hard, hard work.

5. Avoiding same-book reviews until you write your own!
I usually avoid reading any kind of a review of a book whose review I'm waiting to write, for fear of unintended plagiarism. I don't know what other reviewers feel about this, but I just can't read a review and not think about it, so I guess I might as well not read them at all. Once I've posted my version though, I am open and free to read others' versions. :D

6. Turning down a review request.
God, this is the worst aspect for me. I hate turning down requests, but I have to. One, my college takes up 90% of my life, forget about time. Two, there are just some kind of books I can't just read. And it feels bad to have to say No when it's a book I know is not my thing. Still, you have to do what you have to do. 

All this is actually fun to deal with, if you look at it from my perspective. Nothing gives you as much satisfaction as getting to know that someone read and loved a book you recommended, or a book after reading your reviews. Initially I wished people would at least read these. I had no idea what impact a genuine book talk/review could make. I still think we're not yet aware of its full potential, because it is actually huge! After the first person who said she purchases books based on my reviews, I've had quite a few such responses. Maybe they did not even read that much before, maybe once they bought and loved a book based on a review that touched them, they read more of the blog and get more books. It's just amazing. I'm never ashamed of being looked like a shy person who's 'too much' into books and maybe even 'boring'. I seriously don't care, because people's judgment is faulty, not me. Plus, I've already brought about a difference to a few lives in a very minuscule way, but I'm sure it'll last forever. It made a positive impact, which is far more than what the 'loudspeakers' ever do. I'm oh-so-proud! ^_^

PS- I've posted after a long time. College college! Apologies for this tardiness. I'm working on it.! :D


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