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Monday 27 April 2015

Book Review: Better than Perfect by Simone Elkeles

About the book:

Ashtyn's life just got complicated. Her boyfriend is being distant and her sister's back at home after ten years - with a stepson in tow!

Derek has a perfect body, THE sexiest smile and a car - Ashtyn's only way to escape from her crazy life. But Derek likes to play by his own rules and is keen to take Ashtyn on a ride she'll never forget. As they spend more and more time alone together, will Derek's flirty games drive Ashtyn wild?

A sweet and steamy romance from New York Times bestselling author Simone Elkeles

About the author

Simone Elkeles is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of novels for teens. Simone’s books have won many awards including being YALSA Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, being named to the YALSA Popular Paperbacks and Teens Top Ten lists, and added to the Illinois “Read for a Lifetime” Reading List. Simone also won the coveted RITA award from the Romance Writers of America for her book Perfect Chemistry. Simone is especially proud of the fact that the Illinois Association of Teachers of English named her Author of the Year.

Simone was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, where she still lives today. Simone went to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and received her Bachelor’s of Science there in Psychology in 1992. She continued her education at Loyola University-Chicago where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Relations while working for a manufacturing company creating diversity programs for their employees.

She loves animals (she has two dogs – a labradoodle and a German Shepherd), kids (she also has two of those) and her family. In her spare time she’s the Hockey Mom for her kids hockey teams and is an active Girl Scout leader specially trained in outdoor education. She also spends time mentoring other teen and adult authors. (She also loves sushi, which you can probably tell by reading her books.) Simone writes about teens because she was a teen in the 80’s (when spiked hair and blue eye shadow were “rad”) and she loves writing about those exciting teen relationships and romances

My Review:

Trust Simone Elkeles to give you a delightful, fast-paced read. Her other series, Perfect Chemistry, was recommended to me by a friend. After reading this I am surely going to read that too. 
If this isn't recommendation enough for the book, consider this: I am going to read the rest of the series too. 
Here is the interesting part, apart from, of course the hormones and the passion: it was not predictable. I have been so put off by some books with cliched plots and predictable endings that this one came as a pleasant surprise. I could actually imagine the characters and visualize them as under. 
Ashtyn is a confident seeker, ambition writ large on her face. Derek is well Derek. Her father with a deadpan expression through all ups and downs and believe me there are quite a lot of them. Then there's Brandi who looks like she is clueless about everything- past present and future. But just doesn't feel like a bimbo quite yet.
 The story deals with dysfunctional families, and unusual characters with 

surprising roles. 
If you think you know what's coming up, you are in for a major major surprise. Read and see.
The narrative is good. The plot is epic. Football plays a major role. The female protagonist is not your usual damsel in distress. 

If you are a sucker for happy endings just like my friend (the one who recommended it) then you are in for a treat.


Saturday 25 April 2015

Book Review: Propositions by Tania Joyce

About the book:

No strings attached ... or so she thought.
Following years of sacrifice and struggle, Jessica Mason now co-owns a successful marketing
agency in Sydney. All Jessica wants to do is focus on growing her business and maintain the
lifestyle she's worked so hard to achieve. But everything changes when her agency wins a
major contract for the opening of the new Somers Hotel and she has to take on the account.
Nate Somers is a workaholic trying to please his retiring father. When he meets captivating,
go-getting Jessica, the prospect of a short-term love affair sounds like a proposition he'd be
crazy to decline.
But when Jessica spends a weekend away at her favorite vineyard retreat, she runs into Troy
Smith, the ex-boyfriend who left her broken and vulnerable years ago. Things don't go to
plan when the well-kept secrets from her past are revealed and Troy starts weaving his way
back into her life.
With her business at stake and hearts at risk, Jessica's future is destined to change. Who will
end up making Jessica a proposition she simply cannot refuse?

About the author:
Tania Joyce is an Australian author of Erotic, Contemporary and New Adult romance novels. Her
stories thread romance, drama and passion into beautiful locations ranging from the dazzling lights of
Sydney Harbour or the glitter of New York, to the rural countryside of the Hunter Valley or Darling
She’s widely travelled, has a diverse background in the corporate world and has a love for shopping,
shoes and Shiraz. She’s rarely seen without glitter, sparkle and stilettos. Her quirk is she collects key
rings everywhere she goes and often has an intriguing tale about each one.
Picture credits:
Tania draws on all her real-life experiences and combines them with her very vivid dreams to form the foundation of her novels. She likes to write about strong-minded, career-oriented heroes and heroines that go through drama-filled hell, have steamy encounters and risk everything as they endeavor to find their happy-ever-after.
She grew up loving books like Anne of Green Gables, reading the classics like Pride and Prejudice,
and getting lost in the world of fantasy, like The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan, before
finding her home in the romance genre.
Only unearthing the desire to write after having children, Tania now shuffles the hours in her day
between part-time work, full-time family life and never-finding-enough-time to write. One day she
hopes to find balance! She lives in Queensland with her husband and two boys. When she’s not
writing, she enjoys camping, hot yoga, and the company of friends and family – especially if it’s over a glass of wine!
Life motto: If in doubt – add more glitter! (Kylie Minogue, 2011)

My Review:

It’s just another client. Just another event. Clear the head. That’s it. Let’s go.
If only it was that easy. Welcome to the not-so-simple lives of our endearingly stubborn yet professionally ambitious, and emotionally damaged characters: Jessica and Nate. 

To have a female protagonist who is not a weak female, and one who accords just as much importance and priority to her work as her male counterparts, is such a refreshing change. For it is not often that books written in the erotica category cater to women readers while keeping their respect and professional life intact. 
It could have turned out to be just another Fifty Shades parody had it not been for Joyce's creative twist of characters and tale. Thankfully, the twists were convincing and imaginable. Both our hero and heroine share commonalities in the past: Nate is divorced, which happened because he apparently married a pest who was after his wealth, Jessica's past is even more complicated with a string of flings. So much so, that at a point, even she remarks, "I will have two kids with three fathers". She says it is insane, and oh, how right she is. 
I'll have o admit though, the book was very similar to FSOG trilogy when it comes to the crucial points. But, the narrative is fresh, which gives the book brownie points. It is a simple read and can be finished in a day, it so glues you too!
No mysteries, but there is a sense of tension which breaks at points which most suit the reader. 
The best part to look out for in the book are the business meeting. They are amusing, hilarious, professional, utmost business-like, and yet bring the edgy angle into the plot. 
The ending is the best part. The woman is not a timid human being who will give in to the man's will. She refuses to let go of her will and ambitions, after all it was this ambition and common passion towards their professions that brought the couple together!
And again, the narration is so good!

Even if you aren't a regular reader of this genre. this book might just strike as a recommendation. 



Wednesday 22 April 2015

Book Review: The First Coffin by M John

About the book:
The Mumbai underworld is controlled by the Devgun family. When an upright and senior member of the Mumbai police stands up to them, the ‘family’ decides to send out a strong message, by killing not just him, but his whole family. They employ the services of a professional assassin, who does the job, but is unable to kill the police officer’s son, who was not with his family at that time. Because of this technicality, the Devgun family decides to withhold payment to the assassin.

The assassin is now out to collect his payment.

The son has come back, and is now, out seeking revenge.

The Mumbai police are pulling out all stops to solve the case, because the victim was one of their senior officers.

Will things ever be the same again?

About the author:
M John is a retired fighter pilot, with extensive flying experience on the MiG-21, and the Mirage-2000 aircraft. He has also been closely involved in other facets of the military, including Military Intelligence. After retiring from the Indian Air Force, he has written a number of articles on military matters which have been published in a few magazines. He has also taken part in Panel discussions on military matters, on TV. He is a self taught computer ‘enthusiast’, and has written an article on alternative operating systems, which was published in a computer magazine. He likes driving, and has driven practically all over India.

My Review:

In yet another milestone for the crime fiction/thriller scene in India comes a novel which brings a fresh story of the demise of an underworld family- "THE" underworld family is more like it.
I especially like the plot- it is driven by the singular most important and powerful emotion of revenge. Revenge is what provokes the Devgun Family to hire an unknown assassin, revenge is what brings them a powerful enemy in the form of the same assassin who is denied full payment, revenge in the actions of the son whose family was murdered by the assassin. And one twisted plot it is- the initial chapters set the background for the thrill that awaits the reader. However, till the time the assassin is hired and sets to work, the pace is slow. There is an introduction of the characters over the first few chapters, and while it serves well for the purpose of the plot, it was very difficult to remain glued. However, as the story unfolded and the secrets unraveled, I started liking it. The pace, after the killing, was just perfect, and the actions, one following the other were beautifully written in the plot.

The plot keeps you hooked. Another part - the characters- were so deftly etched. Brownie points for that too! The author went under the skin of the characters and it did the trick.

Again, the book was correctly paced, until, in the very end, it ended, and it seemed rather abrupt. Maybe I was enjoying it that I felt it ended too soon, or maybe it left a cliffhanger with scope for a sequel. One can never know. But, the time spent reading it was spent fruitfully.
Crime fiction has indeed arrived in India.

Buy Links:

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Book Review: Blinded by Progress by Lee Van Ham

About the book:
Why does MultiEarth living--living as if we have more than one Earth--grip us so tightly when it defies commonsense to live beyond the capacities of our planet? Why do we continue to pursue economic growth as if it is economic health when it is ecologically impossible? Is It sinister? unconscious? blind faith? addiction?

Blinded by Progress contributes to the global conversation now underway about sustainable living. The author clearly delineates the contrasts between MultiEarth and OneEarth worldviews. He shows the power that myth has to facilitate our change to OneEarth ways or prevent it. For the MultiEarth illusion to continue, it utterly depends on our religious devotion to unsustainable economics, corporate rule, shrinking our humanness, and thinning democracy. Will we cooperate? resist? choose alternatives? This is a book of hope, helping us invoke our great capacities to change.

About the author:
In 1999, Lee Van Ham joined others in forming Jubilee Economics, a nonprofit focused in OneEarth living. Born to a tenant-farming family in Iowa, he pastored in the Midwest for 32 years before switching to work explicitly on the interplay between justice, ecology, economics, and spirituality. He and his spouse, Juanita, were part of the intentional community, Peaceweavings, in Chicago, before relocating to San Diego in 2002. They have grown children and five grandchildren. 

Van Ham has been working on ecological economics since 2000. In 2009 he met Michael Johnson, drawn together by a strong common interest in creating books and film on themes of ecology and economics. Johnson is an Emmy-award winning filmmaker. Out of their relationship was born the OneEarth Project. Van Ham is writing three books in the project’s “Eden Series” and Johnson has begun work on a related documentary. They desire to add to the conversations and actions that are moving civilization from empire to a living community with all of Creation.

My Review:

Predicament- Man has relentlessly and brazenly robbed nature of its beauty and bounteousness. There is a growing acceptance of this grave human folly and the dire need for adoption of a holistic and ecological view of the earth. We have decimated the forests and deteriorated the ecosystems. We have committed heinous crimes: over-exploitation of valuable natural resources, injection of toxic substances into the environment leading to global warming, biodiversity and ecosystem destruction (leading to declining fish and crop productivity), and loss of livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people. Concomitantly arises the increasing insecurity that thousands of communities face due to inadequate access in obtaining safe, adequate food and water.

Human beings are penning their own collapse

Ashish Kothari (Kalpvriksha) remarks, “Dominant trends of the last few years point to one inescapable conclusion: humanity is on a rapid descent into collapses of various kinds. The economic crises of the last few years are one very visible indication, and most economists who are open-minded and not driven by the dogmatic assertions of governments desperate to show a brave face, agree that these crises are not going away. Parallel, and connected, is the ecological crisis, most dramatically illustrated by the climate change-related disasters that are taking place around the world. . .” He further adds,” Add to this the growing tensions around the widening chasm between the rich, enjoying obnoxiously wasteful levels of consumption, and the poor, not finding even enough to eat.”
We all are more aware of the dangers lurking over us than ever before. We are painfully aware of the catastrophe that awaits us, the reason behind the changing weather patterns, et al. We are aggressively involved in environmental activism. But we don’t seem to be going anywhere. No lasting change. Not an iota of difference. So, where did we go wrong?
There’s a point in this process where we went extremely, but thankfully, not irreparably wrong. We hadn’t even accepted, acknowledged, acquiesced in or admitted to our folly of indifference when we started focusing on its remedy. Even before diagnosing the illness we have plagued our Mother Earth with, we wickedly shifted our focus to curing an ailment we didn’t even knew in entirety. As a consequence of our eternal haste and impudent thoughtlessness, what we have is a diabolic cataclysmic concoction: our consumerist lifestyles, the rapidity of change bought in by the impetuous and heedless pace of our whims (which is in contrast with nature’s balance), exploitation of finite natural resources with reckless abandon, our intervention in the balance of things, our insouciance towards life, none of these pointing towards any success in our attempt to rescue ourselves from the catastrophe.

Blinded by Progress: How apt!

We need to know where the fault lies. It is in us. And we need to acknowledge the multitudinous ways in which we have hurt the environment.
In his book, “Blinded by progress”, author Lee Van Ham presents a perspective to think of solutions from. He argues that we have adopted a multi-earth worldview. He begins the book by saying, ‘My lifestyle is too big for our planet’. In his book, he brings to us a plethora of astonishing revelations, which are so monumental in magnitude that one is forced to rethink the boundaries of an insanely greedy lifestyle. For starters, take his: if all seven billion people on Earth lived according to how an average American does, humanity would need a total of five planets to sustain us. Our ecological footprint exceeds one planet, we strive for more resources than available on one planet, and all systems, including the governmental and commercial centers are aimed at extracting more despite creational orders and limits. We have such staggering findings and statistics about our blatant, untamed consumption levels, yet we fail to modify our lifestyles into something which is sustainable.
Other remarkable things about the Multi-earth perspective is that we think of technology brings speed, convenience, and other such advantages, while we overlook the fact that the benefits really benefit us only when technology is used within the parameters of planetary and species well-being. In our thoughtless greed and avarice, a trait that manifests itself every time we reward profit-seeking unethical businessmen with huge profits. Profits are being maximized for corporate and private benefit; profits trump people’s rights and needs, social good, and eco-systems’ balance necessary for continued thriving.
And what has the knowledge of scarcity and limitation of resources done to us? We would like to believe it has made us considerate and thoughtful, however, the ugly truth remains that the sense of self-aggrandizement takes over our conscience and we are competing for these limited resources. The commercial strategies only aggravate the situation by making heedless consumers out of us, urging us to pursue unabated accumulation of more.
So, what is my point? Now that I have made you guilty enough, let me tell you what is it that you can do to actually make things better.
What I am about to suggest is open to customization by each one of us according to our respective lifestyles. There’s this one thing we all can do, and doing so will always remain a work-in-progress. We cannot just have a one-day remedy and still dare to think we changed the world. So, this is what I suggest: abstain from surfeit. Start viewing the ownership of more than is enough materially as a violation of the creational order, and live a simple life. The choice is yours to make: a life full of things or a fulfilled life.

I thank the author for providing me with a review copy!


Saturday 18 April 2015

Why Paper Towns isn't just another book for me

I've heard people rant about how Paper Towns is just another one of the John Green books, and how strikingly similar it is to Looking for Alaska, or how it is starkly analogous to the plot: boy is obsessed with the girl, and the girl disappears. I will not refute or approve this theory, but for reasons of my own, I beg to differ.

To me, Paper Towns is the book that was made for me, the book that feels me, if you know what I mean. I live by every word of it. And here is my reason: the quotes, the words and the dialogues, not just for what they represent in the plot, but for the deeper meaning they entail. Here's exemplifying a handful of them:

1. What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person

This quote is a case of been there, done that : I have been one of those people who amaze you with their creative prowess and genius, and I have seen how people viewed me as some deity, who always had magical solutions to all problems, when in reality it took me just as much pains and troubles as it did to them. Now that I look back, I can't figure where it started, but I do realize that it is treacherous to believe that a person is more than a person. Everyone loved the idea of me: the studious nerd who also coupled as a smart quizzer, writer, poet and whatnot. And I kind of hated it.

Update: People will call you superwoman and there will always be a flip side to it. You probably will never be able to explain this to people.

2. May be all the strings inside him broke

If you have ever been shattered or depressed beyond what words can describe, then you might know the feeling of something snapping inside of you. Some shred of hope dying inside, taking you a step apart from your definition of success. From experience I can tell you, that loss of hope is a fate equal to death.

3. “It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” 

Who are we kidding? Goodbyes are always the hardest. They are the worst. But letting go is a great lesson in life. We all do that- leaving high school, leaving hometown, leaving college, leaving workplace. But, there is a certain form of liberation we experience when we detach ourselves. I know it may sound like one of those verses from holy scriptures, but let go of your High school, and you'll know how relieving and easy it is to have something to look forward to- even if it isn't a planned path!

4. Forever is composed of nows.

And this has got to be the lesson of our times. We are all busy planning, laying down a path to follow, worrying about the future, taking less risks. And where does that land us? We are stranded in a complacent place with no regard whatsoever to the gift of present. Plans fail, times change and
the future s uncertain, so, yeah- accept it.

5.  That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste.

Isn't that the truth in it's unaltered and bare form? This is how human beings function. We give a lot of importance to looks, we love/hate depending upon looks. We are hypocrites. Okay, enough said.

6. If you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all

Here's our very own John Green emphasizing the importance of imagination. The same reason we love fairies, believe in unicorns and love to delve into fiction. Because, if we never believe in something, it might never happen. Belief can make wonders happen, but then undermining the importance of imagination in our life is something we might regret for a long, long time in future.

 7. As much as life can suck, it always beats the alternative.

We may curse life in the bad times, we may hate it all we want: but nothing can compare to the roller-coaster that life is. The ups and downs, the elation and agony, the sorrows and joys- death couldn't be this varied.

I could go on and on, but after this dose of Paper Town-talk, I need to re-read the book. I take leave.


Friday 17 April 2015

Book Review: Metro Diaries by Namrata

About the book:

Love is one of the most amazing feelings on this earth, one that makes you the most powerful person or the most helpless person in a split second. These stories capture those feelings of despair, longing, love, lust, desire, want, dejection and admiration to create deja vu. Hold onto your hearts as you flip through these pages and take a walk down the memory lane as "Metro Diaries" will revive your innermost feelings and imbibe in you the magic of love. Touching, amusing and deeply moving, Metro Diaries - Love Classics are tales that will hold you from start till end.

About the Author:

Namrata is a prolific blogger known by the name Privy Trifles in the blogosphere who romances life through her writings and aspires to make love the universal language. She dons various hats between that of a contributing author to 7 anthologies a reviewer for leading publishing houses an editor to various books and a columnist. Apart from that she is also the editor for an online magazine called Writer's Ezine. Having mastered the nuances of finance till recently she also held the title of an investment banker closely to let it go to embrace her love for writing fully.

My Review:

This is a collection of some of the most heart-warming love stories. The stories are soulful to their core, and romantic through and through, and each story explores a different emotional dimension: pain, wait, delight, agony, fulfilment, et al. Because well,
"Love stories aren’t created; they are captured."

While I am not very romantic in my choice of books, I'd say this was a decent read. The stories were a giveaway:some of them eventually culminated to the most obvious end, they concluded in a very predictable manner, making romance as cliched as it can get.
However, the surprise was in a couple of the stories which were refreshingly different, and the end was astonishing, in a good way, that is.
There are so many different colors to the stories and a multitude of personalities one can never get bored. There's a vulnerable character haunted by the past, there's someone trying to come out of the closet, then there's another character
I especially liked the pieces of poetry that preceded every story. They have been beautifully written without a doubt, and are heart-rending. Here's an example:
" I want to say a lot of things,
wonder if I will be heard.
I want to hear a lot of things,
wonder if they will be said."


This book review is a part of b00k r3vi3w Tours.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Book Review: The Sales Room by Manu Ramesh

About the book:
Rajesh Iyer, a young, ambitious salesperson, returns to ñThe Sales Roomî of Oregon Software Technologies after an aborted attempt at getting into a business school in the US, only to notice the metamorphosis of the software start-up which he had earlier been an integral part of. What used to be a rat-infested hole in the midst of a vegetable market is now a swanky, state of the art facility owned by an upcoming Bollywood star. The enthusiastic and compact team firing on all cylinders is replaced by a sclerotic and bureaucratic set up. Sales review meetings, once rife with passionate discussions, are now replete with profanities. The ill tempered angel investor's scream can be heard all the way from his villa in New York.Rajesh, now shunted into an innocuous role finds every effort made to alleviate the condition of the demoralized sales team, met with resistance. As revenues dwindle and tempers rise, Rajesh realizes he is running out of time and options. He either toes the CEO, Venky's line and becomes party to a sham or quits citing a host of plausible reasons. This hilarious narrative takes the reader from plush corporate boardrooms of Bangalore to the seedy hotels in Delhi as Oregon meanders in search of illusory customer wins. Rajesh meets several interesting characters ranging from the busty Polish graphics designer to the loquacious pimp masquerading as a taxi driver. (less)

Paperback, 196 pages
Published January 30th 2014 by Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd

My Review:

Here's a very different genre of book: it is fiction blended in with as much bitter truths of sales profession as possible. It is not unknown that salespersons are the most dishonest people you'll ever come across in your life. "The Sales Room" is nothing less than a satire on the sales scene in Indian IT sector. Rajesh, our ptotagonist makes no effort to be innocent, which he obviously isnt. The software start-up, Oregon has now scaled up from the humble start-up business that it previously was.

Profanities, expletives and sexual talks are intermittently and casually invading the conversations, making the job of working there even more impossible.
It is hilarious with all these elements, but one questions how much is too much? As far as the moral compass for the book goes, the score is a negative, even for a sales department, for there are clearly more profanities than necessary.

The good part about the book is that it is very insightful. Through various instances and events, the reader gets an idea of how the things actually work in the start-up/sales/investor scene in India. How the marketing centralization delays decision-making and holds the projects in an infinite loop of approvals and rejections. How when the product has failed to deliver any purpose, but still needs to be sold to gullible customers. And how such practices ensure that the organisation shall not survive in the  long-run. As the narrator himself remarks about the customers at one point, "They would not waste money on us if they could help it and if they were blessed with even a modicum of intelligence"
Oregon is a quintessential example of how when one department lacks skills and talent, it takes away all other departments as it drowns and hence the company never progresses.
The result is predictable: not many people stay with the organization, whether as customer or as employee, and those who do stay back for lack of alternatives, suffer from a low morale. In short, there is no hope for Oregon.

All the theory you learnt in your business studies textbook is there in front of your eyes happening among the vivid characters. From HR to marketing to sales tactics to need for diversity in workplace to sexual harassment and extra-marital affairs, there is nothing this bool doesn't cover.

I might do with little less expletives and at little more appropriate places though. I don't mind them using real life slang but then there's only so much you can take.

Links to the book:

I Thank the author for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Author spotlight and Interview: Shama Patel

By the number of smiles in the interview, you can tell how positive a person the author is. True to her personality, she has written her debut work, "21 ways of being happy" which has been published by Grapevine Publishers. It received a 5* rating from our blog  here.

Today, she joins us for an insightful, cheerful and lovely chat!

Kritika: What triggered the writing bug in your case? Was there some moment of epiphany?

Shama: The writing bug was triggered in 2009 when I was all geared up to write a fiction script. I did complete the script, co-authored by a close friend (Asif Sayani). We managed to circulate the script to 12-15 publishers and got a ‘No’ from most of them. The rest never got back. Though I did enjoy working on that script, I was not drawn to writing as passionately as I am today. While I continued to work as an editor and take up various writing projects, the real breakthrough happened when I developed a sincere urge to write about my thoughts, feelings and experiences (sometime around 2012). I started maintaining a blog where I began writing about everyday human struggle and ending each post with something positive to take home. I maintained that while continuing my work as a Psychologist. It all started then and the passion was patiently transformed into '21 Ways of Being Happy' when Grapevine India identified my strength as a writer and a Counselor:-)

On her journey with the book:
This book has been a cathartic journey for me. There were time where I found my creative genius leading the entire process while I felt like a mere channel through which the words were spoken. There were moments when I was so involved into writing a part that I would begin writing at 1 am and be in the literary trance till 5-6 in the morning. So this whole journey has been mystically creative for me.

Kritika: How was writing the book a different experience than the sessions you have with your clients?
Shama: Haha. I like this question:) Well, when I take sessions, it is the client who does the talking and I play the role of a listener. In therapy, the clients speak out their dilemmas, unanswered questions, doubts, confusions etc. and it is during these conversations that they begin to see their life in a better and much healthier perspective.
However, in writing, it was left for me to do the talking and I had the entire Universe as my imaginary readers! So, I began to play dual role of both client and a Psychologist and began this beautiful journey towards happiness. Since I have gone through (and I still go through) day-to-day human challenges, I started sharing my own challenges (from a client perspective) so that the readers can relate to the feelings, behavior and emotions that we all experience. Then I would role reverse and see things from a Counselor's perspective and add ways that I personally practiced in my life. While in therapy, the clients bring in a problem situation, I had to come up with my own list of challenges that I would simplify through this book. The common thread that runs in both therapy and my book is my desire to touch lives. So, even though the process differ, my purpose of healing remains same in both the situations:-)

Kritika: How do you think does the genre of self-help ease the pain of those in distress?

Shama: I believe that each of us has a special gift. Some are gifted techies, some are gifted artists, some gifted dancers and similarly, there are people who are gifted with the ability to ease out the stress in people's lives. Psychologists and Counselors are some of those gifted individuals who, by nature, posses the art of healing which is further enhanced through studying the subject matter and learning various tools to overcome stress. In my opinion, any human being who has gone through problems in life and have managed to overcome them becomes compelled to share this learning with fellow human beings. This is how we have people write volumes of books on self-help. Since we all are human beings and most of us receive the same conditioning throughout our lives, we tend to have (almost) similar problem pattern and when we hear a person (aka self-help guru) talk about a problem and solution, we begin to relate to it with all our heart and mind. Since the self-help writers are human beings, their (hopefully) tried and tested ways do help in easing out the stress that a common human being experiences in his/her life. It works because when in distress, we refuse to see another perspective or fail to cross the fence and get on the other side of life. In that helplessness and hesitation, a self-help expert becomes the one who stands in front of you to say "Dude! life is difficult. It is painful. But you know what, I am here to be by your side. I am here if you need a hand or a light to assist you get on the other side of this fence. I know you can cross it because I have. If I as a human being can, then you as a human being definitely can". So, while you get comfortable relishing the role of a victim (the poor me), a self-help book/speaker can kick your butt and get you connected to the lost strength that lies within you.

What I do wish to highlight here is, self-help books are to be read with an intention of beginning your journey towards easing the stress in life and not used as a bible to refer to, each time you are in distress. While you continue to treat a particular book/author as a self-help guru, do not limit your search. Make your own self your own self-help guru (No one else but you). When you do that, you automatically begin to see how one book or one video or one self-help talk begins to transform your being in a positive manner, opening several healing channels within and around you. Get in touch with that self-help Guru within you, while you continue to explore this genre to broaden your knowledge and wisdom about human life:)

Kritika: What are the future plans? Can your readers expect more in the same genre, or is there a surprise?
Shama: Well I have signed a contract of seven books so, I have six more to go! For now, I hope the readers enjoy the journey into '21 Ways of Being Happy' :-) I am determined to write a book on Relationships so hopefully that would be my second writing venture:)
Future plans! To continue spreading happiness and healing through my work, be it writing, art, counseling or by simply being a human being! :)

Kritika: Any comments/experiences you'd like to share pertaining to getting published?
Shama: Now that I have a book published, I realize that it is easier to get a book published than to promote and market it in the literary world. Since first time authors are still looked at as wearing an 'L' board around their neck, not many people/bookstores are open to giving them bhav and promoting their work. Especially with the self-help tag, people develop a presumed notion that 'yeh toh badi boring and pakaau book hogi'. So, it is a real challenge for me to break that myth and pass this message of happiness to as many people as I can. Even though it is a challenge, I have been fortunate enough to come across blessed and wonderful souls like you who have been generous to join me on this journey of spreading happiness. I keep talking about the book/concept to whoever I meet and in that determination of promoting my work, I do encounter people who are willing to help me spread the word. What keeps me going on this journey is my faith on my work and the belief that it will touch numerous lives, sooner or later:)

This was such a great interview.
I am so happy to know that there are more books in the pipeline, I can't wait! And this author certainly endears herself to her readers! I adore the optimism and candour! It is at times like these that I find myself immensely lucky to be a book blogger.
Thanks for hopping on to my blog!
Find her book here:

Monday 13 April 2015

Book Review: 21 Ways of Being Happy by Shama Patel

About the book

Happiness is a state of mind. Yes, it is. It is not a condition or situation that is presented to some and kept away from others. It is in our own hands to overcome guilt, self pity, regret and anxiety to lead a fulfilling, happy life. Shama Patel, a professional psychologist, enlists the ways and tricks to stay happy, forever.

21 Ways of Being Happy is written with the aim of bringing you closer to yourself. It is a book that will help you charter the course of your life, your own way

About the author:

Shama Patel holds a Post-Graduate degree in Marriage and Family Counselling. As a psychologist, she has worked with mature adults, confused teenagers, couples, senior citizens, alcohol and drug addicts, survivors of abuse and human trafficking and has been associated with various NGOs working for underprivileged children.

Correctly fitting in the term 'Jack of all trades', she is often found glued to books or locked inside her art den, bringing black and white images to life through sketching. When she is not being a psychologist, Shama spends her time listening to music, practicing yoga, appreciating nature and meeting people over masala chai

My Review:

This book is an answer to all the questions that doubt the relevance of self-help books. When it comes to this particular genre, I am myself highly skeptic and selective. Keeping that in mind, I loved reading this book and would definitely recommend it to others as well, which a great praise to say.
Down to the nitty-gritty: as is evident from the title, this book expounds on the ways you can keep yourself happy. 
Now why I liked this book is because
a) This book, unlike other self-help books, hasn't been written in the patronizing or sermonizing manner, you know, the kind of books where the author glorifies himself/herself much to the readers' misery. This book is such a good respite from those pseudo-self-help books, for the author takes it upon herself to be the example. Now, the whole point of such books is to make the reader feel better by telling her that she is not alone, and that the person who is helping her recuperate has experienced the same things, and made some mistakes, but has learnt from them nevertheless. For a reader who is suffering from a loss of hope as she picks the book, this book nails it.
b) This book is empowering. Just like Eat, Pray, Love, the philosophy of this book is not to spread universal brotherhood or any lessons from the class of those not-so-easily-achievable ideals, but rather to love our own self, and I really really do believe that loving one's own self is the most liberating thing to do, especially when the society tells us otherwise. Granted, there is a thin line between what is vain pride and what is loving one's own self. 
c) At times when you are felling low, you might want to pick up a book that answers all questions for you, and elevate your spirits, This book beautifully serves that purpose.

In addition to the content, the book has also been organised very well into 21 short chapters, which begin with anecdotes, proceed with the lessons learnt and end with a "how-to" list on bringing positive change in life.

If there has been any turn-off in the book for me, it has to be this: the book explains definitions from wikipedia at a point, which in my opinion is a very odd and unprofessional thing to do. 

My Judgement: 
A must have, it brought me much-needed love and goodness and optimism and empowerment, especially coming at a time when I was battling multiple problems at once. I can never be thankful enough. Trust me, as I reader, I have done myself a favor by reading this book.

Find the book:

I thank the author for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review!

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Kritika's bookshelf: read

Angels & Demons
The Story of My Life
The Hunger Games
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
A Tale of Two Cities
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
Sense and Sensibility
A Christmas Carol
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Time Machine
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Da Vinci Code

Kritika Narula's favorite books »


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