Friday, 31 October 2014

WordBite and Vanya's Notebook Book Giveaway #2| Operation Mom | by Reenita Malhotra Hora

Operation Mom! What is the first thing that comes in mind when you get to hear these words? No no! It’s not Operating Mom or something like that. It’s a simple story of a 21st century teenage Ali Zafar Groupie daughter trying to get her mom a man and a ‘life’… Seems Interesting, isn’t it? For more insight on it, here’s the blurb for you-

When you try to set your mom’s life right. Be prepared to have your own turned upside down. Seventeen-year-old Ila Isham has serious problems. There’s the angst of being an Ali Zafar groupie, for one. Then there are the extra layers of fat she owes to her Punjabi roots. Add to this, parents who have separated; an enthusiastic best friend whose idea of variety is dating three guys at the same time; and her mom’s best friend, Aunty Maleeka, whose good intentions and savvy ways throw up more problems than solutions- and Ila’s got her hands quite full. When her mother flips out over her plans to stalk Ali Zafar, Ila decides she has had enough and sets out to create a few distractions to keep her mom busy. With a little help from BFF Deepali, Aunty Maleeka and Dev of the inviting chocolate-pool eyes, Ila will have to brave everything from Lagaan.com and OKCupid profiles to meeting handlebar-moustache colonels and middle-aged psychos, as she tries to set up the perfect parent trap for her unsuspecting mother.

Eager? Eager to read it? Hands itching to get hold of the book? Guess what? Here is an opportunity! We, in association with The WordBite are giving away copies of this book to some of you lucky readers! But before that, let’s play a game! Rules are mentioned below and trust me, it’s not that tough! Just a few steps… ready? Here we goooooo……

1.      Ok! To Begin with, you got to like The WordBite’s official FaceBook page HERE!

2.      With that done, please do not forget to follow Vanya’s Notebook at our twitter handle @vanya4all HERE!

3.      And now the real game begins—All you got to do is tweet your first thoughts on the book with the hashtag #OperationMom and tag @vanya4all in it!

Trust me, the people with the best answers would be chosen personally by the authoress and they would receive a copy of the book with a Personalized message from the author for them!

And yes! Do not forget to post your review once you are done with the book!

For any queries, please comment on this post and we will get back to you!

You have time to post your tweets till 4th of November'2014! Hurry up!!


Pssssstttttt—For all you guys who are still unsure, don’t think much An interview of the authoress, a review of the book and a few words on the book are somewhere out there in the blog, just keep scrolling down!! J


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

"I think that no matter who you are, the greatest thing you have to offer to the world is your stories." - says Reenita Malhotra Hora in a heartwarming chat with Vanya's Notebook...


For the umpteenth time when I read the name of the book, I was confused! Operation Mom! I didn’t know what to expect. Then I switched to the author bio, when I read that I knew that the book is going to rock and trust me or not, what I experienced was much more than rocking! Reenita Malhotra Hora had made me fall in love with her writing style and the book once I read it and more often than not, I just knew that I had to know the inside story of the novel! Guess what? I succeeded! Here is a wonderful talk into books, Operation Mom and much more…
PS- Do not forget to buy the book!

Vanya’s Notebook- After all these years for you having been a part of the literary industry, I want to take the pleasure of welcoming you to the world of fiction!! How has the journey been for you?

Reenita—That's a loaded question! 
It has been a great rise but not an easy one by any means. Although my Young Adult crossover story, Operation Mom – How I got my Mother a Life and a Man is my debut novel, it isn't actually the first I wrote. In fact the yet-to-be-published, The Chronicles of Arya is actually the first piece of fiction I wrote. To say I found it challenging on every level is putting it mildly. Hail from a non-fiction/journalistic background, it was a major challenge to “get out of the box” and relax into a creative flow that is so badly needed in fiction. Up until then all of my writing had been extremely structured – there is a certain 'uptight' nature that befits journalism. It took me forever to break that mold and let loose.
Not to mention that initially, I was writing to a Western audience. Subsequently, I decided to direct my focus to Indian readers. But the bigger problem was that typical of first-time-novelists, I fell in love with every character. I found myself staunchly defending their existence in critique groups rather than be open to 'killing my darlings' to really bring the story to life.

Vanya’s Notebook- Your author bio says that you are the ‘Hora family concierge and fish taco connoisseur’ why is that? Any special moment you want to share with us regarding these two titles given to you?

Reenita— Yes indeed, rather than 'mother', 'parent', 'wife' or any other typically befitting title, the  most accurate has been 'Hora family concierge.' We are a small family with a large attitude. Everyone of us, my husband - Neeraj, my daughter -Ilya, my son - AryaVir and our dog – Dumbledore, has a unique personal agenda and when it comes to deciding who gets priority, it's always a question of “My way or hit the highway!” Just as the concierge is the caretaker of an apartment building complex or the guy at the hotel front desk who shows guests around and makes theater reservations, my job is to organize the Horas without dampening their egos! School stuff, family travel, work, social activities, logistics...if I started getting into the intricacies of what that means for each one of us, I'd be writing pages. What's interesting to note though is the origin of the word concierge. It's French - probably based on Latin conserves ‘fellow slave.’ Go figure!
As for the title of 'Fish Taco Connoisseur,' your question reminds me that my tagline is dated because since I crafted that one, I have turned one hundred percent vegetarian. In my days of living in California, I would often long for home. However that was easier said than done, the journey to India was long and not financially viable on a whim. So when we discovered Mexico, it was like chocolate for my soul. Crossing the border from Southern California  you'd suddenly feel like you were back home – with the way the people looked, how they spoke, their attitude, the way they hung their clothes to dry outside on a clothesline. It was in Ixtapa sometime in the early 2000s that I discovered my love for fish tacos. I have been a die-hard addict ever since, well until I recently turned veg. I don't plan to ever go back to being no-veg but I will say that the thought of fish tacos has the power to bring about a certain conditioned reflex.

Vanya’s Notebook- Having your book in hand, and after reading it I had a few    questions. To begin with, what was the thought you put in the book while writing it? I mean, did it come out of your mind all so suddenly or was it any journalism related assignment which made you think of it?

Reenita— No journalism related assignment at all. The story of Operation Mom just flowed because I was in a girly mood and focused on creating memorable characters whose quirks and flaws really defined their unique personalities. 
            I wrote the book over the course of a summer. Luckily I was alone for the most part that summer as in my kids were abroad in summer camp, chaperoned by their father.  I was working the morning shift at RTHK Radio 3 and that left me with the afternoons to write. I had huge amounts of fun writing the book and because I was so in love with the obuse-ness of the characters, the story came together very easily.
            The characters and settings are heavily inspired by my own life scenes so people who know me are always looking to relate a particular character to one of my family members or friends. And while there is plenty overlap with things that have been, as a fiction writer you have the luxury of twisting situations and characters into what you want them to be. It's a great way to immortalize those you walk you always wanted to take down the wild side or seek revenge on those who left you in the lurch somehow.

Vanya’s Notebook- I really liked the way you have written your book. It’s a very ‘girlish’ and a very perky language. Was it to add the ‘oomph’ factor to your book or was it the way you write?

Reenita— When I embarked on a mission to write a novel about being a teen in Mumbai, I thought, how hard could it be? But it was. My nephew was quick to remind me that my lingo was out of date and my teen references out of context. Then followed a crash course in contemporary Mumbai slang. Between that and a slew of my own young adult experiences, the story unfolded.
            When it comes to humor, I honestly believe that we do not have enough of it in our daily experience. And Indian writing in general also lacks humor. So that is certainly a matter of writing style that I continue to explore – although it is not as if to say that everything I write is humorous. Pervious to Operation Mom, I had written a series of first person stories for the South China Morning Post's Family Post tabloid. They were a wry, sarcastic look at the drama of my family members. I got a lot of great feedback from readers which is why I decided to write Operation Mom in a similar style but in the mindset of the young female adult i.e. “perky and girlish” as you say.

Vanya’s Notebook- I have been really happy to see that you do not stick to one genre and have experimented with quite a few. I mean, your books were Forever Young, Inner Beauty and Ayurveda after which Operation Mom came into being. Is there any specific reason to that or just like that?

Reenita— Truth be told my first books about Ayurveda came into being because of my job as an Ayurvedic clinician and business owner at the time. That's when I discovered...or more accurately, re-discovered...my love for writing but decided that I was type-cast. No publisher thought that I could write about anything but Ayurveda. But I always knew I wanted to write fiction so finally took the plunge. And other non-fiction genres too.  Yes, I do have interests beyond Ayurveda that I would like to share with readers.

Vanya’s Notebook- For your readers, I would like to request you to sum up the book Operation Mom in a few words.

Reenita— Operation Mom is the story of a Mumbai teen's quest to get her single mother dating
again. Now typically it's the mothers who are looking to set up their daughters and not the other way around, and certainly not through the online world. To top that, we traditionally, we look to get girls 'married' rather than 'dating.'
            In many ways I myself identify with the plight of Ila and her mom, Veena, but the wild and wanton Aunty Maleeka is heavily inspired by a crazy school mate of mine. She and Deepali, her younger reincarnation, buck the trends of the traditional Punjabi 'isms' that I have dealt with throughout my life and in many ways they are who Veena and Ila live vicariously through. Truth is, I think we all need a bit of Aunty Maleeka or Deepali in our lives!
            In many ways, the story is about bucking trends. I intentionally wanted to break some norms because I think that as a society we could be a little less uptight and might do well with a dose of 'taking ourselves less seriously.' Thing is if you are the mother of a daughter, or the daughter or a mother, at some level you are going to identify. And when it comes to the guys, they have all seen these crazy but dominant female flit in and out of their lives.

Vanya’s Notebook- George Michael of Wham!! I mean, seriously? You did that?

Reenita— Yes, 100% full disclosure! Anyone who knew me in my teenage years can attest to how overly infatuated I was with George Michael.  I mean to some extent that goes for every woman in my generation, anywhere in the world, but I was definitely part of the elite club of the super-obsessed. It actually got my own mother extremely worried because that's when it first hit her that I was a Type A, obsessive personality and in her books, that could possibly lead to a host of problems later in life.
            I stalked George in my teenage years – in an age where there was no such thing as the internet or social media.  That he was gay was of course completely immaterial back then – I barely even understood what that meant. If my buddies pointed out that there was no way he could possibly be biologically interested in me even if I somehow carried through my zany notion of meeting him (which I did), I took it as a personal affront.


            
The anecdote has made its way into Operation Mom (as fiction of course) and while George Michael may not define pop culture in the 21st century, I figure we could re-launch him into stardom by casting him as himself in the movie version. After all, we have an entire audience of eighties women who have spent days idling away to the tune of his hit ballad, Careless Whisper, once upon a not-so-long-ago!
            For fun, I have attached a picture of myself as a teen with George Micahel. That it got published in the Mumbai midday brought me something akin to teen fame. Of course my husband says that in looking at it, it's anyone's guess as to which one of the two is Reenita and which is George Michael!

Vanya’s Notebook- What about your future works? Something new or sticking to the safe genre of romance and chick lit?

Reenita— Is romance and chick lit really a 'safe' genre? That suggestion in itself makes me want to say “something new” :)  A friend of mine recently admonished me for switching and changing genres. “You have to stick to one or you'll never make your mark,” she insisted. Her words still haunt me but then as I tell everyone, there is nobody in the world I can rely on to entertain me but myself. And the entertainment is not going to come from just one genre.
            There is a lot I want to explore and say to the world. And a bunch of narrative voices to explore it with so, no I will definitely not stock to one genre. To better answer your question, here's what I have coming out in the next year:  a finance book  Money-Smart: The Indian Woman's Guide to Building Wealth and also a fantasy-fiction story for young teens called The Chronicles of Arya. Then I will work on an Ayurvedic diet/cookbook because I am such a firm believer in the notion of 'you are what you eat.' Once I am done with that, I will be ready to get back to fiction.

Vanya’s Notebook- You must have got many reviews and criticisms about the book. Did any affect you much? Which one, according to you was the best? And which one, the most critic one?

Reenita— Oh this is difficult. When you read great reviews of your book, you are just so happy to know that the reader is enjoying it!
            There was one review by Shubham Kumar on Flipkart that really delighted me. He called it “top-notch intellect” and said Albeit it’s a female oriented book but it holds good entertainment value for both the genders.” I was particularly happy about this because even though it is female-centric, I know that a lot of male readers will enjoy it because they will identify these characters with females from their life.
            Shubham also said “I feel that Operation Mom is a top rated season of a famous TV show. It’s finely divided into different episodes, with each one taking the story further. It never felt like I was reading a book. It was more of watching a TV program that would be telecasted on weekends.” Once you’re into the story, you feel like you’ve known the characters for quite some time. Whatever they say, whatever they do, is completely justified.”
            More and more, people reject reading in favor of TV. I know how I love binge-watching my favorite TV shows. How great is it then to bring people a book that make them feel like they are watching their favorite TV show instead!
            In terms of criticism, I was a little disappointed with one that mentioned that the content matter was a little “unorthodox” for schools. This is exactly what I mean about our uptight nature of our society and why people need to address and accept life as it happens...ideally served up with a dash of humor.

Vanya’s Notebook- Sorry to have bored you so much. As you can see, I speak a lot. So, not to further bore the readers with much of my talking, I would like to ask you to say a few words for my blog and of course, for your readers.


Reenita— I think that no matter who you are, the greatest thing you’ll have to offer to the world is your stories. We all have terrific stories submerged within the depths of our sub consciousness but that journey of discovery can be made only if you acquiesce to the currents of your sub consciousness and see where they take you, rather than fighting against them to stay ashore where life is safe because you've seen it before. But sometimes, it can be hard to dig in discover those stories, much less bring them to conscious realms and then disburse them to the rest of the world.
            This is probably why I take my role as a story-teller very seriously. Whether it is through my books or radio shows or public appearances, I filter those untold stories, not just the ones that originate from me but the ones that come from you too...the readers, the listeners, the players. So I encourage you to please stay in touch and bring me your stories too in any way that you would like. My website: Www.reenita.com or email me at reenita@reenita.com.

It was indeed a mind blowing experience talking to Reenita Malhotra Hora! Hope you loved reading it as well. We wish her loads of luck of her future endeavors! And if you want to know more about what I think of the book, do keep flipping the pages of Vanya’s Notebook, a review of the book and an article regarding the same is down there!


Thursday, 16 October 2014

An Ideal Wife by Sanjay Grover: a review

The cover depicting the ‘Ideal Wife’ is truly an attention seeker! It has been really a long time since I have read a book which is recommended by Shaadi.com and as it has such a recommendation, it surely and easily becomes a grabber for the readers of all age groups, especially teenagers!! Did I mention about the last line of the blurb? It says- You can’t blame the author if you get married after reading the book! Now what say? Ain’t it a good grab?

The back cover says- An Ideal Wife… Beware what you wish for! What happens when the technology savvy Dwarf God, once the driver of the Biggest God in Heaven, sets out to find an Ideal Wife for a man on earth? Seems like a simple thing for a god to handle, right? But here is the catch- God has never created a girl with all the qualities this man, Sameer, wants in his Ideal Wife. And now, to make matters worse, Dwarf God has to do it without using his divine powers. Will He be able to find the girl? Will she be an Ideal Wife for Sameer?

It’s interesting to see a debut author taking up such a topic to write upon! An interestingly chosen plot and an even interestingly written narrative gives this book it’s much needed feel. To think upon it, I loved the way the book has been presented. With the easy to read font and good paper quality, I also liked the way the chapter names have been given and written in a very cute font.

The story was a very new one. One of the technology savvy Dwarf Gods descend to Earth (Mrytyulok as described in the book) as a human to find an Ideal Wife for his biggest follower promising him the best before thinking a sec about the circumstances one might face when such happens.

The endeavor described in the book was very wonderful to read and it would keep a smile pasted on the lips of every reader while reading the book. The one-liners used in the book and the way they have been written give a very positive vibe about the book.

How the God finds the Ideal Wife for Sameer and what happens after that is something one must look forward to while reading the book. It teaches us a very nice moral in the end. I also liked the characterizations of the book while had a very realistic feel to itself.


Apart from the fact that the story was a very interesting one, there was something amiss. A very life-changing impact in the story was missing making it a light read. Though there were hardly any grammatical errors in the book, I felt that a bit articulated version of the book would’ve given it’s readers a whole new and a better time while reading it. Considering the fact that it is the work of a debut author, the preface supporting the thing made one like the book as a onetime read. I would like to rate it 3.75 out of 5 (only because I felt something amiss) waiting for more from the author.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Crumpled Voices: a review

For a book of such calibre, I am truly very happy; for the name of the book fully justifies the content of the book. Crumpled Voices, the shades of suffering has a wonderful blend of short stories by different writers all woven into one full book of varied emotions and wonderful stories. This book is surely a must read for every reader and not only for readers but also for everyone! Kudos to the cover designer for designing such an enchanting cover.

According to the blurb: Crumpled Voices – Shades of Suffering is a collection of short stories based on social issues. A common thread of the prevailing societal evils and injustice binds them together. This anthology comes directly from heart and life. These days, humanity is suffering to such an extent that we found it difficult to stay quiet. So, this is our small beginning towards awakening the masses.
The fiction level is nil as each day we all witness horrendous crimes like Rapes, Acid Attacks, Domestic Violence, Honour Killings, etc. We all have been a witness to such heinous crimes in our day to day life, our near and dear ones might have experience them closely too. We have almost grown up among them, felt them following us. We constantly live in fear of the unknown, fear of being the victim to any of the criminal activities multiplying around us. These days when no place is safe, including the web, our voices need to be heard.
Protest must begin from somewhere, and we have used our pen which is mightier than the sword to express our anguish. An echo of many unimaginable atrocities lurks within us, engulfing us in its shadow. Through each of the story in this book, we have tried to highlight one such aspect of horrifying crimes. This is an initiative that can also work as a boost up for all those who have been suffering but have chosen to stay quiet so far.

Down the Way by Ila Garg is a poem stating a very important message towards our society. When numerous trees are being cut, this poem will make the readers understand what a tree feels. Good work by the poetess.

Second in the list is another story by Ila Garg named This is Who I am. Our society is a bit reluctant when it comes to the topic of homosexuality. In this story the author described what it feels to be neglected and humiliated because of being attracted towards the same sex.

Karma Returns by Pulkit Gupta is the next. How the happy marriage life of Devika and Rajesh changed and they chose the divorce as the only option is the story all about. An usual story with an unusual ending.

Tania Srivastava’s The Last Whisper is a story of a woman named Shalini. The story goes on how she kept her mouth shut and absorbed the humiliation from her husband. The gripping narrating style makes this story a must read.

Next on the list is It is Honourable by Abhik Chakraborty. This debut author has chosen a very delicate topic to write about. Honour killing is a topic that not everyone is familiar with but this story will make readers feel the pain of the sister. One of the best of the series.

Abhishek ‘Atul’s The Curious Case of Missing Brahmins couldn’t able to make justice towards its name. The story is a bit boring at time and can drop the speed of the book. How Keshav describes what we are lacking today and how he proved to be a true Brahmin is the main prospect of the story.
 
Seventh story of the book is Color of a Butterfly by PromillaQazi. The author has a wonderful story telling skill that cover up the flaws of the story line. A nice name for a story like this. The will make readers gasp for more.

Smita Salins has jotted down an influential story in the next named, Indira’s Story. The readers can easily visualize everything by the effortless narrating style of the author. The way Indira leads her life after so much struggle is something every reader will look forward to.

The Corrupt Me by Nitesh Chitranshi says about our inner self, how we should change ourselves first before shouting for changing the system. The author presented the message by a simple story to make it easy for the readers.

Sreelekha Chatterjee’s simple and catchy narrating style will grab the reader’s attention in her story The Fatal Pride. The name suits the story perfectly. Kudos to the author for telling the story in such a wonderful way.

Prachi Priyanka’ The Paradise is a about a girl but not of her sufferings. This story stands alone from the crowd because of its different prospect. To know what happened when a husband started to notice the different side of her wife, one should read the story.

Nature’s Revenge by Shruti Mall is the next story where nature takes revenge in his own way. Parihar lost everything in exact same way he snatched those from someone, what we called poetic justice. A nice framed plot.

She Was Raped is a poem by NitinSoni which says how our country is suffering. This poem perfectly suits the theme of the book and the quality of the poet takes this book to a new level. Wonderfully chosen words and the message which lies beneath the poem will take readers heart.

Harsh RaiPuri has chosen a very effective name for his story, The Crescendo of a Grand Symphony.
The storyline is so good that it will bring a smile on readers face at the ending. The author has manage to juggle between past and present quite efficiently but at some point it gets confusing.

A Letter to God by Sandeep Sharmais the fifteenth story of the book. This story helps to maintain the flow of the book. The story of a ten year old girl will definitely take readers attention and the well-crafted words will make this story on of the best.

Nibha Gupta’s Eighteenth Birthday says about the bond between sisters. How one sister look after her sister without informing her about her existence and consumed all the wrath herself is the main storyline. A bit predictive but nice plot.

The Indecent Profession by Durgesh Shastri tells about the return of the karma. This story will teach the readers that your karma will hunt you down and will punish you for sure. The end of the story is the most interesting part.

Shrruti Patole Clarence has presented the way to fight back in her story Light. After facing thosedreadful crimes one should fight for his/her justice rather than cursing the fate and society. A well-needed message in a book like this.

Ketaki Sane has perfectly given name to this story Freedom. Our inhuman society bounds us, especially when it comes to a girl. The author narrated the story in a very soothing way that readers going to complete the story in one go and would enjoy the deserved freedom of the protagonist.

Gayatri Aptekar’s A Second Chance is a story about two different girls. How they became victim because of the society and how one girl helps the other to avail the rare second chance is why the readers going to love the story.

The Newspaper Reader by Chandrapal Khasiya questions us on the unbearable headlines of the newspaper in the voice of a 12 year old. The end will bring tears in their eyes and will appreciate the author for the storyline.

Together We Can Make a Difference by Priyanka Bansal is the next on the list. One more important topic was brought forward by this author in a very delightfully framed story. A girl fought for her mother and tries to make the society aware of the deadly HIV+.

Priyanka Bansal took the responsibility to end the book with her poem Don’t Decolorize Me and have done proper justice to that. The author very efficiently portrays her message by a tragic poem. This is how a book like this should end. 


There is no perfect time for raising our voices toward our inhuman society or our corrupted system and this anthology has taken the initiative to make the youth speak, to make people aware of those horrendous crimes. Each and every story has different message and a different tale to tell. Judging the book in overall, I would like to give this book a 4.5 out of 5.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

12 strokes of life by Durgesh Shastri: a review

There are a few books which will drag your attention towards them and before you read it, you will get the feeling that this book is going to be good. The quality, the cover, the color combination and the blurb of the book reflects the same kind of feeling. The first impression of the 12 stokes of life by Durgesh Shastri is quite remarkable. 

According to the back cover: 12 strokes of life is a collection of 12 short stories. From the hilly terrains of Matheran to the IT hub of the country, from the historically rich city of Bihar to one of the fastest growing cities of India, Coimbatore, these stories are set in varied locations. From an overconfident youth longing for success to a determined old man termed insane by neighbors, from a married lady in search of true love to a young girl fighting against all odds to overcome her worst fears, the characters are very much alive and can be related to people around us. The stories belong to different genres and try to send across a message to the reader which is though everyone paints a unique picture of life based on their experiences; it never stops to amaze us. After all, life has infinite strokes. Read the 12 strokes of life to know the hues and shades of the journey of a few.

The author has narrated each story in quite a simple way; no unpronounceable words and no unnecessary usage of phrases. The simple way of the narrating keeps the flow and will engage the readers till the end. I am sure the readers will love the names of the stories. Just like the name of the book, the author has given a similar effort in choosing the appropriate name for each of his stories which will definitely generate curiosity among the readers.  

The stories are very different from each other and the readers will close the book with mixed reaction. Where one story will regenerate the faith in god, then another story will make the readers heaved a sigh of relief at the end. The characters are also very different from each other and very much relatable to the readers in itself. I would be wrong if I say that this book doesn’t have love stories, but those are not the regular clich├ęd ones.

 The most interesting part about this author is, he has tried to install a positive thought among the readers through every story penned down by him. Not that he was successful every time but kudos to the author for choosing such a less traveled path. The stories of this book lack consistency. When the first story will raise the reader’s expectation then the second one isn’t able to maintain the standard set by the first one. Not that every story has flaws and can be written in a better way but most of the stories does.


 I felt sometimes the author has lacked patience and without describing the situations has concentrated more on finishing the story which will disappoint the readers. The editing was a bit weak too and could have been done in a better way.  After judging all the negative and positive points of the book, I escalate the author for such a brave attempt of writing something out of the box and will encourage him to continue writing unusual stuffs. Overall I would rate this book a 3.75 out of 5.