Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reading with Laya: The Animal Boogie

Book: The Animal Boogie
Illustration: Debbie Harter
Sung by: Fred Penner

The first thing that you (and your little one) notice about the Animal Boogie book is the colorful illustration. The jungle comes to life with bright green leaves and big friendly looking animals. and when you finally tear your eyes away from the illustrations, you realize that the lines are short with an easy rhyming pattern. Perfect for a quick read aloud with the kids!
 What more could one ask for from a read aloud book for preschoolers? A catchy tune to sing along with? Well, that's included too! The book comes with an entertaining singalong CD.
Before you realize it, the littles ones are talking about various actions like leaping, swinging, stomping, slythering, etc!

Right from the first read/singalong, this has become one of Laya's favorite reads and sometimes, when she's preoccupied doing a puzzle or coloring a page, I even catch her humming the tune!

 Buy the book at an Indie Bookstore!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: The Last Song of Dusk

Book: The last song of Dusk
Author: Siddharth Danvant Shanghvi
My Rating: 4 Stars
Review: A wildly entertaining award winning novel by a very talented young writer.

The last song of dusk, Siddharth Danvant Shanghvi’s debut novel, is set in 1920s India. When published, the book took the literary world by a storm winning the Betty Trask Award in the UK, the Premio Grinzane Cavour in Italy, and was nominated for the IMPAC Prize. Much to the author’s discontent, the book is usually categorized as magical realism and he is compared to the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie. Lofty comparisons for a debut author, I must say; especially when he was just 22 years old when the book was published.

When a book comes with so much acclaim and so much hype, it’s hard to not have expectations before you’ve read even a single word.

The last song of dusk is a love story - a complicated love story that dwells in the “happily ever after” stage of a fairy tale. Why references to a fairy tale here you might ask. I don’t do it without reason. This story starts with Anuradha, a beautiful young bride with a haunting voice that even stops the moon, traveling to Bombay to marry Vardhaman, a young smart doctor known for his good looks and the number of women feigning illness just to have him treat them. To add to the fairy tale like quality of the book, Vardhaman even has a wicked step mother! Anuradha and Vardhaman get married despite minor obstacles and even have a beautiful son, Mohan who is a musical prodigy.

But instead of ending the story with a “and they happily ever after”, Siddharth Shanghvi uses this tale as just a prologue to his novel where he delves in to the complicated web of emotions that Anuradha and Vardhaman weave when their son dies suddenly. They move to a beautiful yet haunted house that has a fascinating history and a will of its own. At the core of the book is a character called Nandini. Nandini is a 14 year old promiscuous orphan that enchants Anuradha and comes to lives with her. She is a glamorous, devious, talented, cunning painter who charms her way in to people’s hearts and breaks them easily without rhyme or reason. For me, Nandini was the most memorable character in the book. It’s hard to dislike her. She has a wild streak that is entertaining and at the same time midly scary!

In this book, Siddharth Shanghvi comes across as an amateur author - one with immense talent but a little too willing to please. The central plot of the story is very original and holds your attention all the way through. There are a lot of deviations from the main story line. Some of the deviations are apt while some seem to dilute the central theme.

He has a beautiful way with words and there’s no scarcity for adjectives in the book. Most of the descriptions are vivid and easily help in painting the right picture in you read along; but some seem forced and superfluous.  

The last song of dusk is definitely an entertaining read.
Buy "The Last Song of Dusk" at an Indie Bookstore!
Buy "The Last Song of Dusk" from
Buy "The Last Song of Dusk" from Powell's Books

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Lust: A Reader's Book of Days

Any book lover will want this book on their bookshelf.. esp after watching this super cute video that the author made:

How A Reader's Book of Days Was Made from WW Norton on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reading with Laya: Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots

Book: Do Princesses wear Hiking Boots
Author: Carmela LaVigna Coyle
Illustrator: Mike Gordon and Carl Gordon
Age: 3 to 6

"Do princesses wear hiking boots" is a fun book to read to little girls with a new take on the whole princess concept. It is about a little curious girl asking her mom a series of questions about princesses. Do they ride trikes? Do they climb trees? etc etc.. And the mom's responses are reassuring that being a princesses is not only about wearing a pretty gown with a tiara and some fancy jewels but it is about who you are inside. This book is a joy for little girls to read.. The lines are short and have a catchy rhyming pattern. The illustrations are wonderful and they love everything about the book. For moms too, this is a fantastic book. We love the message that every little girl is a princess in her own way!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Mountain of Light by Indu Sundaresan

Title: The Mountain of Light
Author: Indu Sundaresan
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4 Stars
Short Review: Fascinating book surrounding the history of the world famous Kohinoor diamond. A must read for all historical fiction lovers and those interested in Indian history.

Indu Sundaresan, as an author, needs no introduction. Her Taj Mahal Trilogy books (The twentieth wife, the feast of Roses and Shadow Princess) introduced the rich, colorful Indian history to historical fiction lovers around the world who had never imagined seeing beyond the wildly popular British historical fiction. Her books pack a wealth of historical information but the information is blended so well in to the narrative that it doesn’t feel like you are sitting through a history lecture. The Mountain of Light is Indu Sundaresan’s sixth book.

‘Mountain of light’ is a literal translation (from Persian/Arabic) for the name of one the world’s most famous diamonds – The Koh-i-Noor diamond.  The diamond, originally believed to have been mined in India, was owned by various rulers in Persia, Afghanisthan and India before finally making its way across the oceans to England (where it still resides). The lure of this stone is further enhanced by a curse that it is supposed to carry –

"He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all
its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity."

The book by Indu Sundaresan follows a part of the extensive journey of this precious stone from Afghanisthan to England via Punjab. And through the story of the stone, we learn about the various people that came in contact with it and the rather entertaining interactions between those that had it and those that wanted it. It is fascinating to see how much lie, deceit, power play, pride and other negative emotions a stone no larger than the size of a closed fist can trigger.

I have always been curious about the history of the Kohinoor diamond – the only piece (from the tremendous amount of wealth transferred from India to Britain during the British rule) that a lot of people in India still feel strongly about. And this book satisfied my curiosity in the most delicious manner. If every history fact I needed to learn was coated with the right dose of fiction in the hands of Indu Sundaresan, I would definitely remember a lot more about than I do right now!
But, in addition to the history of the diamond, I learnt something that I didn’t expect from this book – the ruthless manner in which the East India Company slowly took over India – kingdom by kingdom, empire by empire; the smooth maneuvers with which they hoodwinked the na├»ve rulers under the pretext of helping them out. That was definitely eye opening.

The Mountain of Light is a well written book and definitely not intimidating. It was a quick, easy, and very interesting read. There are no slow moving parts where your attention dwindles. The extensive research that has gone in to creating this story is inspiring! I always feel that historical fiction is one of the hardest genres to write. It takes way more than just creativity to blend historical facts with fiction seamlessly. Indu Sundaresan’s attention to minute details in her books has always amazed me. She casually inserts snippets of descriptions that help in creating a complete picture of the time period the book was set in. Only when you sit back and think about it, do you realize that these casual snippets are not really casual at all. They are well researched fragments of history that provide so much background to the historical period the book was set in.

It did have a lot of characters, but definitely not too many to confuse you. The story of Maharajah Dalip Singh tugs at your heart. You can’t help but feel sorry for the lonely young boy uprooted from his homeland and stripped of his powers and wealth who doesn’t really realize what happened to him until he was must older and jaded. But I did feel that some of the characters are introduced in a strong manner with a lot of potential but fade away without much impact.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Mountain of Light. It was educational and entertaining at the same time. I can’t wait for Indu Sundaresan’s next book to come out.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: The Married Kama Sutra - The World's Least Erotic Sex Manual

Title: The Married Kama Sutra
Author: Simon Rich
Illustrator: Farley Katz
Genre: Humor
Rating: 4 Stars

I don’t know about you, but I am always on the lookout for coffee table books. Books that can capture the attention of someone with just a glance and can turn in to a conversation piece rather than just stay as an adornment. This weekend, I think I found a perfect addition to my existing coffee table books. Who can exist a second glance when the taboo words “kama sutra” dance on the cover? When the two words have caught your eye, you pay more attention and read the full title – “The Married Kama Sutra – The world’s least erotic sex manual”. And right there, you know you are in for a treat when you open the book!

Simon Rich and Farley Katz have “unearthed” a valuable new document – a missing section in the original kama sutra -  positions that lovers frequently indulge in AFTER they are married. Hilarious, yet oddly insightful, descriptions of the various “positions” are accompanied by full page illustrations in the style of the original Kama Sutra (with a modern twist, of course).

I haven’t laughed so much for a book that is less than 50 pages in length. It doesn’t take you more than 10 minutes to go from cover to cover but you find yourself reaching for the book constantly. Position names have already made their way in to regular conversations with friends and family… “It was such a ‘perverse lovebirds’ moment” or “don’t give me that ‘wounded hippopotamus’ look”, etc..

Here's a little slideshow to give you a little teaser.

This is definitely a must have book for every coffee table!