1st To Die – James Patterson

ImageTitle : 1st To Die

Author : James Patterson

ISBN-10 : 0446610038

ISBN-13 : 978-0446610032

Paperback : 488 pages

The Plot :

1st To Die by James Patterson is the first of twelve books (as of 2013) in the Women’s Murder Club Series. It follows four women, Lindsay Boxer, a homicide inspector for the San Francisco Police Department, Claire Washburn, a medical examiner, Jill Bernhardt, an assistant D.A., and Cindy Thomas, a reporter who just started working the crime desk of the San Francisco Chronicle as they bring their different skills together to solve some of the most difficult murder cases. This first book deals with a case called “The Honeymoon Murders” where the killer manages to kill his victims on their wedding night.

The story starts with the murder of Melanie and David Brandt, in the Mandarin Suite at the Grand Hyatt. The killer enters the room, pretending to be room service, kills David and Melanie and then immorally brutalizes her corpse. The next couple who are found dead are Becky and Michael. Their bodies are found in an abandoned limo near a wine yard. And finally a third couple is brutally murdered on their wedding night.

The four ladies all use the information they have gathered and the skills they have and try and solve the crime on their own. Throughout all this they all have their own problems in the background. Lindsay for example is dealing with a life threatening disease.

Full of breath taking drama, the book proceeds at a lightening pace. With short chapters and a really fast moving story line it is a quick read. You connect with each of the characters and the author manages to elicit every emotion from the reader. The story has so many twists and keeps you begging for more. All in all it is an amazing read and I highly recommend it.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/1st-Die-Novel-Womens-Murder/dp/0446610038

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.jamespatterson.com/

Find Out More About the Movie : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252133/

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The Devil Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger

The Devil Wears PradaTitle : The Devil Wears Prada

Author : Lauren Weisberger

ISBN-10 : 0307275558

ISBN-13 : 978-0307275554

Paperback : 448 pages

The Plot :

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger gives a new meaning to the term ‘Boss from hell’. Loosely based on Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, it deals with the fashion magazine publishing business. For those who have only seen the movie starring Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestley, Anne Hathaway as Andrea ‘Andy’ Sachs and Emily Blunt as Emily Charlton, the plot of the book is somewhat different especially in the way it ends.

The book starts with Andrea ‘Andy’ Sachs, fresh graduate from Brown University, moving to New York City to realize her dream of being a writer for a magazine like ‘The New Yorker’. She and her best friend Lilly, who is studying at Columbia University, move in together. After applying to every available position and publishing company she can think of, Andy is surprised to get an interview call from the Elias-Clark Group as the junior assistant to Miranda Priestly, the editor-in-chief of ‘Runway’ one of the most popular fashion magazines.

From the very beginning she is told how coveted her job is and how “a million girls would kill” for her job. With very little knowledge or interest in the fashion industry, Andy takes up the job just because she is told that after working for Miranda for just a year, she could have her pick of jobs anywhere within the magazine industry. Determined to do her best and impress Miranda, Andy start work at “Runway” under Emily Charlton, Miranda’s senior assistant.

From day one she realizes that Miranda is a nightmare to work for and Miranda respects no one and cares for no one but herself. She has unreasonable demands like getting the unpublished Harry Potter books for her twins to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, and Andy tries her best to cope with it. In addition to Miranda, Emily also doesn’t make things any easier for her.

Meanwhile her new job and boss are so demanding that it starts to take a toll on her relationship with long term boyfriend Alex, best friend Lilly, her parents and other friends. Lilly starts turning to alcohol and one night stands with creepy men to relieve her stress from grad school. Alex, struggling with his own demanding job as an inner-city schoolteacher, grows frustrated with Andrea’s long hours and constant stress. And things get worse when Andy is forced to go to Paris for fashion week, in place of Emily who has fallen ill, there by having to cancel a long awaited trip with Alex.

Finally in Paris, Miranda asks Andy what she would like to do in the future, career wise. Learning of Andy’s dreams to work for The New Yorker, Miranda promises to help her get a job with them as soon as she finishes a year as her assistant. At the same time, Andy gets calls from Alex and her parents, asking her to come home immediately, as Lilly has been in a serious accident and is in a coma.

Although Andrea is pressured by her family and Alex to return home, she tells Miranda she will honor her commitment to Runway. Miranda is pleased, and tells her that her future in magazine publishing is bright. At the Paris fashion show for Christian Dior, however, Miranda phones her with yet another impossible demand. Andy finally realizes that the job ‘a million girls would kill for’ might just become the reason she kills herself and that it was not worth the prize. She feels that her family and friends are more important than her job, and realizes to her horror that she is becoming more and more like Miranda. She refuses to comply with Miranda’s latest outrageous request, and when Miranda scolds her publicly, Andrea replies, “Fuck you, Miranda. Fuck you”. She is fired on the spot, and returns home to reconnect with her friends and family.

The book was a wonderful read and I enjoyed every bit of it. My favorite parts were the unimaginable demands of Miranda Priestley. The pace of the book is a little slow, but it is definitely worth a read.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Devil-Wears-Prada-Lauren-Weisberger/dp/0307275558/ref=tmm_mmp_title_0

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.laurenweisberger.com/

Find Out More About the Movie : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0458352/

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

ImageTitle : The White Tiger

Author : Aravind Adiga

ISBN-10 : 1416562591

ISBN-13 : 978-1416562597

Paperback : 288 pages

The Plot :

Aravind Adiga’s ‘The White Tiger’ is a novel that provides a darkly humorous perspective of life in current India. The book is a retrospective narration told in the form of a letter to the Chinese Premier, by Balram Halwai, a rickshaw pullers son, who manages in his own right to become an entrepreneur. It deals with various issues like poverty, corruption, the caste system, globalization and most importantly a man’s struggle for freedom in India all set against the background of the vast difference between the rich and poor in India which is made even more evident by its juxtaposition in a place like New Delhi.

The entire book is a letter that the protagonist, Balram has written to the Chinese Premier. It is a story of how he escapes a life of servitude and manages to become the owner of a successful business. He calls himself the white tiger as it is a very rare and he feels he is one of the rare people in India, who is born with nothing and manages to become an entrepreneur. He feels that he is the representation of real India as opposed to the big business men who were born with a silver spoon.

The book begins with Balrams childhood in Laxmanghar, a rural village in what he calls “the darkness” in India. He is the son of a rickshaw puller. He was a clever child and was good at school but had to drop out due to family obligations. He is made to work at a tea shop as menial labour with his brother in Dhanbad. While working there he eaves drops on all his customers’ conversations and starts to learn about the Indian economy and the government. He knows that he is not the optimal worker and has aspirations to be a driver instead.

Soon he manages to learn to drive and lands a job as a driver for Ashok, the son of a local landlord. Soon he is relocated to New Delhi with Ashok and his wife Ms Pinky Madam. During his time in the country’s capital he is exposed to a lot of new things. He sees great amounts of wealth and how the rich spend it. He sees a totally different life style than what he is used to. And the most evident thing that he notices is the overwhelming contrast between the rich and the poor living in the same city. Here he also sees the vast extents of corruption in all offices, high and low.

One night as his boss’ wife, Ms Pinky, is driving she hits something on the streets which she thinks is a child. Her husband pays off the poor family and their problem disappears. Similarly, Balram sees his boss involved in a lot of other corrupt activities and using money to get rid of his problems. That is when he decides to murder Ashok and run away with his entire boss’ money and use it to start a new life where he would not have to be subservient to anyone.

He moves to Bangalore, the new hub of IT and businesses in India, with the stolen money and starts his own business. He is convinced that Ashok’s father, the local landlord would have killed his entire family to avenge his sons murder. In the end he justifies his murdering his boss, saying that his freedom was worth Ashok’s life.

What drew me to the book initially was the fact that it had a very ominous tone form the beginning. It showed a very different side of India. It showed the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty within India and how vast the difference is. In essence it is a story of a man fighting for his freedom. He may not have used the correct means for it but did what he though would get him out of a self-perpetuating situation. It is brutally honest, beautifully written and the story line is gripping. An excellent read overall.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-White-Tiger-A-Novel/dp/1416562591/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.aravindadiga.com/

Master Of The Game – Sidney Sheldon

Master Of The GameTitle : Master Of The Game

Author : Sidney Sheldon

ISBN-10 : 8172234872

ISBN-13 : 978-8172234874

Paperback : 448 pages

The Plot :

Another classic Sidney Sheldon book, Master of the Game spans over 6 generations beginning with Jamie in 1883. The book starts in 1982 on Kate Blackwell’s ninetieth birthday. Her entire family is there to celebrate with her but all of them in truth hate her and feel that she manipulated and changed their course of life. Kate on the other hand thinks that she is the one who was cheated instead and feels that she has done everything in her power to help them. The rest of the book is a flash back from 1883 to the present as she recalls the formation of the company she now owns, Kruger-Brent Ltd.

We are first introduced to Jamie McGregor, who moves to South Africa with dreams of becoming rich, mining for diamonds. He risks his life on multiple occasions to achieve his goal and finally manages to become successful with the help of a Dutch shopkeeper, Salomon Van Der Merwe. Soon he realizes that he has been defrauded by Salomon and is contractually only a labourer for Salomon, not his partner. With the help of a friend he manages to recover his diamonds and changes his identity to Ian Travis.

As Ian Travis, he is recognised by all as a rich and successful businessman. He marries the daughter of Salomon in revenge and she gives birth to a son first, names Jamie Jr.,  and then a daughter named Kate. Ian/Jamie dies soon, leaving the company to his wife Margaret, who in turn leaves it to Kate who grows up strong-willed and beautiful. She falls in love with her mentor David Blackwell and eventually marries him and they move to New York. Their company begins to grow and branch out to become a global conglomerate under Kate’s leadership.

She and David have a son they name Tony, who wants to be an artist but Kate has plans for him to take over the company she has so painstakingly built. Kate secretly destroys Tony’s career as an artist to further her dream of having him take over the company. When he finds out the involvement of his mother in this, he stands up to her and walks away from the business. Kate later manipulates him into marrying Marianne Hoffman, whose father owns something she covets. The marriage is happy and Marianne becomes pregnant with twin girls, but Marianne dies before the second girl is delivered.

Her doctor tells Tony that he had warned Marianne of the dangers but that Kate told her to ignore them. The incident, along with the coincidental revelation that Kate manipulated and ultimately destroyed his entire art career, drives Tony mad and he tries to kill his mother in revenge. She survives the gunshot wound, but Tony is committed to an institution. Kate is heartbroken that her son felt this way about her but she is determined to survive.

Kate takes her two granddaughters to raise them and names them Eve and Alexandra. Eve grows up to be ruthless and cunning just like her grandmother. She sees Alexandra as a problem to inheriting Kate’s estate in entirety and repeatedly attempts to kill her. Kate clearly favours Eve as the heir apparent to Kruger Brent, but when Eve tries to implicate Alexandra in a sex scandal Kate realizes the truth about Eve and disinherits her, giving her only a small allowance and pays attention to Alexandra.

Enraged, Eve plots revenge against both her sister and grandmother. She meets George Mellis and seduces him into helping her. Eve holds certain secrets over his head and convinves him to marry Alexandra and then murder her. Eve continues to taunt Mellis, and one night he snaps and attacks Eve, brutally assaulting her. She eventually recovers thanks to the work of a talented but mousy plastic surgeon Keith Webster and uses the beating to get back into her grandmother’s good graces. Kate melts and takes Eve back in and puts her back in the will.

Having fallen in love with her, he blackmails her into marrying him. Eve marries him but cheats on him flagrantly with a young actor. When the actor makes a joke about her laugh lines she demands that Webster repair them. Webster deliberately destroys her face and proves to be a master manipulator himself, making Eve completely dependent on him. Alexandra, meanwhile, falls in love with the Templeton; they marry and have a son, Robert.

The book finally ends with at Kate’s ninetieth birthday party, where Robert is 8 years old. She sees him as the next heir to the company but is parents laugh it off. Robert seems to be a talented pianist and his parents encourage him to follow whatever he wants. Kate on the other had different plans for him and sets a new scheme in motion to get her way.

Extremely interesting, this book takes you through a journey with Kate Blackwell. The lead character is a master manipulator and the book follows her different schemes to get her way. It is a page turner and makes for an extremely good read.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Master-Game-Sidney-Sheldon/dp/8172234872/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/sidneysheldon/books.html

Find Out More About the TV Miniseries Adaptation : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086755/

Trading Up – Candace Bushnell

ImageTitle : Trading Up

Author : Candace Bushnell

ISBN-10 : 0786890878

ISBN-13 : 978-0786890873

Paperback : 600 pages

The Plot :

‘Trading Up’ is a sequel to ‘4 Blondes’ by Candace Bushnell. For those who haven’t read 4 Blondes, it just introduces us to Janey Wilcox, the main character of Trading Up. At the end of 4 Blondes, Janey signs a contract with Victoria’s Secret as a model. Trading Up deals with a slightly older and more wiser Janey Wilcox, who is determined to make it to the top. In this book we are given an in-depth look into Janey’s now successful life and her rise and fall in the high society scene.

The book is set in the year 2000 in New York City. Janey is on her way out to the Hamptons when she receives a phone call from Comstock Dibble, the head of Parador Pictures. Not having heard from him for almost a year, it brings back unpleasant memories, as he was her lover and just as she allowed herself to fall madly in love with him, he got engaged to socialite Mauve Binchley. Janey finally came to the realization that “while men were perfectly happy to date her, when it came to the ultimate union of marriage they always seemed to spurn her”.

The purpose of Comstock’s phone call was to order Janey not to make any trouble for him as they were both attending top socialite Mimi Kilroy’s party that evening. As Janey’s sarcastic side came out, Comstock threatened her and after a string of expletives hung up the phone. Janey was extremely thrilled to have been invited to Mimi’s party. In the past Mimi had barely even acknowledged Janey’s presence and even seemingly made it a point to ignore her. But now that Janey had finally made a name for herself in New York, Mimi was suddenly acting like her best friend.

At Mimi’s party Janey is introduced to Selden Rose, the head of the cable channel MovieTime, — and who eventually she marries.The rest of the novel explores Janey’s trials and tribulations in trying to successfully make it in high society life. It is not an easy ride for her as issues from her past are brought out into the open and threaten to ruin her reputation forever.

It seems as if her only goal in life is to be a top player in the society scene and she will do whatever it takes to get there. Janey continually struggles with her torrid past as a consummate seducer of powerful men and is known in many circles as a semi-prostitute. Determined to become a movie producer, Janey attempts to maneuver her way to the top of the New York social scene by any means necessary, including using her younger sister and her brother-in-law, a popular rock star, for her own ends.

Eventually it is revealed that Janey’s reputation as a prostitute is rather well-deserved and a past indiscretion with a powerful media mogul is publicly revealed. Janey’s reputation is ruined and she splits from her husband, fleeing to Los Angeles. She manages to get a screenplay, written by her many years ago, into the right hands in Hollywood and is all set to embark on a new journey as a Hollywood movie producer.

Janey is one of those leading characters that you love to hate. She is shallow and uses everyone to achieve some goal of hers with no regard for them. To her everyone is a pawn in the game she is playing to reach the top. Yes, she’s got flaws, but Candace Bushnell – through her spiteful, greedy cast – truly conveys the artificial life of moneyed America. It is a quick read but the plot progresses very slowly.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/0786890878

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.candacebushnell.com/

Night – Elie Wiesel

NightTitle : Night

Author : Elie Wiesel

ISBN-10: 0374500010

ISBN-13 : 978-0374500016

Paperback : 120 pages

The Plot :

Night begins in 1941, when, the narrator of the story, Elie, is twelve years old. It starts in a little town called Sighet in Transylvania. Elie is a studious, deeply religious boy with a loving family consisting of his parents and three sisters. One day, Moshe the Beadle, a Jew from Sighet, deported in 1942, with whom Elie had once studied the Kabbalah, comes back and warns the town of the impending dangers of the German army. No one listens and almost 2 years pass by. But by 1944, Germans are already in the town of Sighet and they set up two ghettos for the Jews. After a while, the Germans begin the deportation of the Jews to the concentration camp in Auschwitz.

The Jews of Sighet are forced into crowded cattle wagons, each car consisting of eighty people. The conditions of the train ride are horrific; they are treated no better than animals. A woman named Madame Schachter starts to go mad. Periodically, throughout the train ride, she yells about fire, flames, and the furnace. At first, the others try to quiet her. When that does not work, they merely ignore her. When the train arrives at its destination, they are at Birkenau, the reception centre for Auschwitz. The air smells of burning flesh.

At Birkenau, Elie is separated from his mother and sisters. Realizing the importance of being together, Elie and his father lie about their age. As they prepare to enter the camp, they see a ditch where babies are thrown into a burning flame. Elie cannot imagine that this is actually happening. It feels like a nightmare that he can never forget. The male Jews are shaved, showered, and given work clothes. After a long march, they enter Auschwitz, where Elie becomes number A-7713. After a brief stay at Auschwitz, they are moved to a new camp, Buna.

At Buna, Elie goes through the dehumanizing process of the concentration camps. Both he and his father experience severe beatings at the hand of the kapos (overseers). In one instance, Elie receives twenty-five strokes of the whip from Idek the Kapo for walking in on him while he is with a girl. All the prisoners are overworked and undernourished. Many lose faith in God, including Elie. He witnesses several hangings, one of a boy with an angelic face, and sees him struggle for over thirty minutes fighting for his life.

Elie and his father manage to survive through the selection process, where the unfit are condemned to the crematory. Elie suffers from a foot injury that places him in a hospital. After the surgery, the Germans decide to relocate the prisoners because of the advancement of the Russian army. The prisoners begin a long trek in the dead of winter. Many do not make it. Elie and his father support each other through the gruelling march.

The march leads to a train ride where Elie witnesses a boy kill his father for a morsel of bread. Elie is horrified at the very thought, but he realizes that he too has become callous-that he is beginning to care only about his own survival. By the end of the winter trek to Buchenwald, out of a hundred prisoners, only a dozen survive, including Elie and his father.

Although Elie’s father survives the trip, he later falls ill. Elie witnesses the slow deterioration of his father’s health and his eventual death. At Buchenweld, the Germans try in desperation to exterminate all the remaining Jews. But by this time, the Germans are close to defeat. Before the Germans can carry out Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews, there is a successful uprising in the camp by the resistance. In Buchenwald, however, Eliezer’s father dies of dysentery and physical abuse. Eliezer survives, an empty shell of a man until April 11, 1945, the day that the American army liberates the camp.

Shocking and gut wrenching, this account of the Holocaust is a stark and naked description of the concentration camp in Auschwitz. It is a very sad story and definitely very touching. I read the book to get a little better idea of what the concentration camps were and what went on there.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Night-Elie-Wiesel/dp/0374500010

Find Out More About the Author :  http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/

Oprah’s Reading Guide To Night :  http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/Your-Guide-to-Night-and-Elie-Wiesel

The Best Laid Plans – Sidney Sheldon

The Best Laid PlansTitle : The Best Laid Plans

Author : Sidney Sheldon

ISBN-10: 0006510558

ISBN-13 : 978-0006510550

Paperback : 343 pages

The Plot :

One of the best books by Sidney Sheldon’s ‘The Best Laid Plans’ is an amazing combination of three powerful storylines involving Washington politics, a jilted woman’s revenge and the war in Bosnia, tied to each other. Set in US and Sarajevo, this book follows Oliver Russell, who has ambitions of becoming the president of the United States, Leslie Stewart, a woman who will stop at nothing to destroy Oliver in his quest to take revenge for what he did to her and Dana Evans, a reporter who goes to Sarajevo to cover the war and how it deeply impacts her life after.

The book starts with a journal entry by Leslie Stuart where she writes ‘Dear Diary: This morning I met the man I am going to marry.’ It was a simple entry but by the end of the first chapter she has been so jilted that she vows to destroy that man. In her journal entry she was talking about Oliver, who she meets when he as a famous attorney hires her to help with some PR work when he plans to run for governor. They fall in love and are soon engaged. A week before their wedding, Oliver has to go to Paris for some business, and the next thing she hears is a reporter calling her to tell her that Oliver has married the daughter of an influential senator in hopes to further his career.

She is humiliated everywhere she goes with people whispering about her situation and reporters hounding her to find out more details of the story. It is then that she decides to completely destroy Oliver and his career. She starts by courting a rich media mogul and soon is married to him. With his death she becomes the owner of his vast empire of newspapers and publications. She gets involved with running and expanding the empire, acquiring more newspapers and soon establishes herself as one of the largest publishing empires in the world.

We also see reporter Dana Evans and her rise to famous war correspondent with WTE, one of the companies owned by Leslie. She goes into war stricken Sarajevo, to report stories how the brutalities of the war and make a difference by telling the stores to people across the world. Soon she establishes a deep relationship with one of the orphan boys in Sarajevo and helps him escape to safety. She is blames of espionage and is arrested in Bosnia. Using the powers of the now President, Oliver Russell, they get her released from prison and back to the US. She is indebted to the president and soon starts working as the White House correspondent of WTE.

We see Oliver Russell, as a idealistic but lecherous president and how Leslie is planning to use that to destroy him. With a couple of deaths around Oliver Russell due to the toxicity of Liquid Ecstasy, a dangerous aphrodisiac that Leslie was once asked to consume by him, she is convinced he is behind all the deaths. When she is convinced it is Oliver who is behind these murders, she goes on to publish the news of his arrest before it is confirmed. Dana Evans then unmasks the real culprit, while the president reveals a shocking secret.

It is a highly engrossing story, and with its plot twists makes for an excellent read. As is put on the back cover it is “a tale of two equally determined people headed on a collision course. Oliver has a strategy to win the White House; Leslie has a scheme to make him wish he’d never been born. They both should have known that even the best laid plans can go dangerously astray and have deadly consequences.” All in all a classic Sidney Sheldon, fast paced, made of TV novel. Definitely worth a read.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Best-Laid-Plans-Sidney-Sheldon/dp/0006510558/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/sidneysheldon/books.html

 

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

ImageTitle : The Hunger Games

Author : Suzanne Collins

ISBN-10 : 0439023528

ISBN-13 : 978-0439023528

Paperback : 384 pages

The Plot :

The Hunger Games is the first book in The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It is a work of fiction told from the perspective of the protagonist a 16 year old girl called Katniss Everdeen. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world in the nation of Panem.

The entire nation is divided into 12 districts and is ruled by a wealthy capitol. Each district has a particular business that they are in and district 12, where Katniss hails from is the coal producing district. These districts are very poor (sometimes not even having a piece of bread to eat) and are mistreated and taken advantage of by the Capitol. The punishment for rebelling against the rule of the Capitol was total annihilation as was demonstrated to the previously existing district 13.

To keep the power of the Capitol in people’s memory, they organize a yearly even known as The Hunger Games. It is a televised game where one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 are chosen from every district to fight to the death, in an open arena controlled by the Capitol, until only one victor remains. The participants, known as “Tributes” are chosen at random in an annual lottery system known as “The Reaping”.

The book starts with the reaping coming up and everyone in district terrified by it. In the reaping, Katniss’s 12 year old sister is selected. Terrified for her life, Katniss volunteers to represent district 12 in the upcoming Hunger Games. The boy selected for the same is Peeta Mellark, whom Katniss recognises but is not able to exactly place him. They are immediately swept away to the Capitol where they are introduced to the audience.

They are provided with stylists to make them look attractive to the audience, who dress in the most garish styles themselves, and provided with lavish food beyond their imagination. Soon the training sessions begin for all the tributes and they size up their competition. Being the underdogs amongst the other tributes, Katniss and Peeta try and hone their skills in the short training sessions available. They are also provided with a mentor, the drunken Haymitch, who was a victor of the Hunger Games from their district, many years ago.

Using all the available tools at their disposal, mainly being wit and their personalities, Katniss and Peeta spin up a story of being start crossed lovers and try to gain the sympathy of the viewers and the sponsors who would provide them with important survival items like medicines and weapons when they are in the arena. Katniss and Peeta pretend to be lovers throughout the games and we see Peeta actually falling for her. The book follows the tributes in the arena and reaches a nail biting finale.

All in all I enjoyed the book and surprisingly the movie was pretty good too. I loved the descriptions of a world that is so different from ours yet so believable that we are headed in that direction. The books talks about basic human emotions and fear of death. It also deals with issues like war, poverty and oppression and are dealt with very well. In my opinion it is an amazing read. Looking forward to reading the next one in the series.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Hunger-Games-Book-1/dp/0439023521/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Find Out More About the Author :  http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/

Find Out More About the Movie :  http://www.thehungergamesmovie.com/index.html

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

ImageTitle : The Da Vinci Code

Author : Dan Brown

ISBN-10: 0307474275

ISBN-13 : 978-0307474278

Paperback : 597 pages

The Plot :

In Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu investigate the murder of the museum curator of the most famous museum in the world, The Louvre Museum. Near the victim’s body the police discover a cipher. Langdon is called upon to use his skills to decipher it.

This cipher leads them through a trail of other clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci, visible to all but cleverly disguised in the art, displayed in the museum. Langdon and Sophie soon discover that the curator was part of a secret society called ‘The Priory of Scion’, whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and da Vinci, among others. They discover that the curator was killed because he was protecting one of the most important secrets of the society, the location of the religiously important relic, the Holy Grail, which has been hidden for centuries.

In a breathless race through Paris, London, and beyond, Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker that appears to work for Opus Dei—a clandestine, Vatican-sanctioned Catholic sect believed to have long plotted to seize the Priory’s secret. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory’s secret—and a stunning historical truth—will be lost forever.

With an amazing blend of adventure, history, art and intrigue, The Da Vinci Code was an amazing read. It kept me on the edge of my seat and roped me in from the first page. In a word the book is unputdownable. A definite must read.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Vinci-Code-Dan-Brown/dp/0307474275

Find Out More About the Author :  http://www.danbrown.com/

Find Out More About the Movie :  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0382625/

Empire Of The Moghul: Raiders From The North – Alex Rutherford

ImageTitle : Empire Of The Moghul – Raiders From The North

Author : Alex Rutherford

ISBN-10 : 0312573227

ISBN-13 : 978-0312573225

Paperback : 448 pages

The Plot :

This is the first book in the ‘Empire of the Moghul’ series by Alex Rutherford. The entire series has five books until now (2013) and deals with the Mughal Empire. The Mughals were one of the most opulent and powerful dynasties in the world and the central theme of the books revolve around the rise and fall of this dynasty,

‘Raiders from the North’ talks about the life of Babur, who is considered the first emperor of the Mughal dynasty. He is the descendent of Timur the Lame (Tamburlaine) and ruler of Ferghana in central Asia. From a very young age, when he inherited the throne, he had to fight to maintain his rule over his kingdom. The book starts in 1494 when at the age of 12, Babur inherits the throne, after the death of his father. He is determined to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors to make them the greatest dynasty that every ruled and be great like them.

The main characters of the book are his family and ministers including his mother Kutlugh Nigar, Grandmother Esan Dawlat, sister Khanzada and son Humayun, Shaibani Khan of the Uzbeks and Shah Ismail of Persia. Babur’s military commander Wazir Khan, adviser Baisanghar and friend Baburi are based on historical figures. With their help he is able to get hold of the throne and continue to rule after his father.

He is ambitious and has dreams to expand his kingdom to match that of his ancestors. As soon as he inherits the thrown he is subject to vicious plots and by some of his ministers and family to usurp the throne. Simultaneously the neighbouring king of the Uzbeks, Shaibani Khan and King of Persia, Shah Ismail plan to invade his kingdom. In order to be able to survive and rule his kingdom, Babur develops his cunning and military skills.

As a young king lacking skills to rule the empire he gets ousted from his own kingdom loosing Samarkhand that belonged to his ancestors and Ferghana where he ruled. He goes to Kabul where he starts to rule and slowly plans to regain his old territories along with new lands.  

Based on his autobiography, the ‘Baburnama’, this work of historic fiction makes for an amazing read. It gives you an insight into the mind of a Mughal emperor along with scenes of decadence and frivolity used to the emperor. It also takes you through the military stratagems and battles that helped establish the basis of the glorious Mughal dynasty. All in all, it is a great book which stays true to facts, takes you practically into those days as the story unfolds and leads you through Ferghana, onto Samarkand – then Kabul and finally Hindustan. I enjoyed the book thoroughly and highly recommend it. I can hardly wait to start the next in the series.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Raiders-North-Empire-Alex-Rutherford/dp/0312573227/ref=tmm_pap_title_0/175-3758988-8186954

Find Out More About the Author :  http://empireofthemoghul.com/

The Palace Of Illusions – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

ImageTitle : The Palace Of Illusions

Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

ISBN-10 : 1400096200

ISBN-13 : 978-1400096206

Paperback : 384 pages

The Plot :

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is brings a very different perspective to the Indian epic Mahabharata. It is a narration of the epic from Draupadi/Paanchali’s point of view.

For those who are not aware, The Mahabharata, is a very important part of Indian Hindu mythology. It is the struggle for the throre of Hastinapura, in India that was ruled by the Kuru clan. The main characters are segregated into two families, The Pandavas (five brothers) and the Kauravas (one hundred brothers). At its core, The Mahabharata is a story of how good triumphs over evil even though the good may be outnumbered by the evil.

Draupadi also known as Paanchali is the wife of the Pandavas. Yes she is married to them all but not simultaneously. For a year she is wife to one brother and sister-in-law to the others and this continues year after year. In the Indian mythology the Pandavas are revered to as Gods and can do no wrong (although there are many mistakes they make as humans in the epic). This book gives a different perspective and treats them as humans with real flaws.

It starts with the birth of Draupadi, the fire child, princess of Paanchal and continues through her life. It talks about how she falls in love with one man and is forced to marry five others instead. You see her deal with everyday issues to things like trying to adjust being married to five men. She has her list of pros and cons of each husband and how they treat her and look at her so differently. It also shows you how she is one of the main reasons that The Mahabharata even occurred. It speaks of humanized characters, rather than the tragic, even if flawed, heroes of the original epic, whose travails the reader identifies with. 

It is interesting to read because in most other versions of the epic, old and new alike, the women are more of side characters, whereas in this book Draupadi is in the centre of the actions. It is based totally of historic facts from the epic with some welcome additions by the author. Yes we all know how it ends and we know the whole story before reading the book, but it is the narration and the modernized revision of the story that makes it a compelling read. It was such a beautifully narrated version of The Mahabharata that after the book ended it left me begging for more. I enjoyed every minute of the book and place it very high on my recommendations list.  

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/1400096200

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/

For More About The Mahabharata : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata

The Separation Of Power – Vince Flynn

separation-of-powerTitle : The Separation Of Power

Author : Vince Flynn

ISBN-10 : 1416516360

ISBN-13 : 978-1416516361

Paperback : 448 pages

The Plot :

Mitch Rapp is back in the action packed fifth instalment of the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn called ‘The Separation of Power’.  The CIA is up for new leadership with the retirement and death of former director. Dr. Irene Kennedy is all set to be nominated to take over, but some corrupt politicos from Washington want a different candidate to head the secret organization so that they can control the flow of top secret information. With this goal in mind they try to derail Kennedy’s career and the term of the American President, Robert Hayes.

At the same time, America is faced with a challenge that could have adverse effects in the world. Israeli intelligence, Mossad, has discovered that Iraq is all set to join the nuclear race and looks to America for help. They have their own motives in the whole situation at hand. With two weeks to disable the nuclear weapons, America has to do so with utmost discretion as they have discovered some important information leaks within the CIA. Their only option : top counter terrorism operative of the CIA, Mitch Rapp.

With the help of the Navy, Air-Force, Marines and the Army, Mitch Rapp comes up with a plan to not just destroy the nuclear facility but to do it without any causality, co-lateral damage and a plan to bring the warheads safely back to America as proof.

With a nail biting finish and a range of emotions, the book is action packed from page one. With politics and secret service missions and World War III looming, it makes for a very interesting read. I loved the book and give it 5 stars.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Separation-Of-Power-ebook/dp/B007CXK6ES/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

Find Out More About the Author :  http://www.vinceflynn.com/

The Feast Of Roses – Indu Sundaresan

feast of rosesTitle : The Feast Of Roses

Author : Indu Sunderesan

ISBN-10 : 0743456416

ISBN-13 : 978-0743456418

Paperback : 416 pages

The Plot :

The sequel to ‘The Twentieth Wife’, ‘The Feast of Roses’ by Indu Sunderesan is all about how Mehrunnnisa establishes herself as the most important wife of Jahangir. Set 1611, this books is the second in the Taj trilogy. At the end of the last book, Jahangir marries Mehrunnisa, making her his 20th wife. All his other marriages were for political reasons and only this, his latest, is for love.

Using his love as a tool at her disposal Mehrunnisa, given the title ‘Nur Jahan’ by Jahangir, culls out a place for herself in history as one of the most powerful empresses in the Mughal Empire. Over a seventeen year marriage, she becomes the Emperor in all but name of the vast Mughal Empire. Although hidden behind a veil and the walls of the Mughal harem of the king, Mehrunnisa assumes the powers of sovereignty that her husband willingly bestows on her.

She uses his deep and obsessive love fro her and immense trust that he places in her to gain the power to be able to mint coins in her name, issue farmaans ( imperial orders) and construct tombs and monuments that are considered some of the landmarks of the Mughal Dynasty in India. All this power was something she had to fight for.

This books talks about the means that she used to gain this power and position including using her daughter (from a previous marriage) as a pawn in her battle for power. From the very get go she has strong enemies like Empress Jagat Gosini (one of the other wives of Jaganhir) within the harem and ministers outside it. She deals with clever plots by them to destroy the kings affections for her and uses them to increase her position in the harem to the most important wife of the king.

In turn she forms an alliance of sorts with her father, brother and Prince Khurram (Jahangir’s son from another marriage). As the author describes it “Through it all, Mehrunnisa demonstrates strength of character and cunning to get what she wants. The woman who fretted about life’s absurdities, with few resources to change them in The Twentieth Wife, finds full expression to her character and personality in The Feast of Roses.”

All in all it is a wonderful book. Filled with political intrigue, schemes and plans and the resourcefulness of one woman, it makes for an excellent read. Like the previous book the descriptions and amazing and the language flows so smoothly. In a word Unputdownable.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Feast-Roses-A-Novel/dp/0743456416

Find Out More About the Author :  http://www.indusundaresan.com/Default.aspx

The Twentieth Wife – Indu Sunderesan

twentieth wifeTitle : The Twentieth Wife

Author : Indu Sunderesan

ISBN-10: 0743428188

ISBN-13 : 978-0743428187

Paperback : 416 pages

The Plot :

Set in the 15th century Mughal empire, Indu Sunderesan’s ‘The Twentieth Wife’, is the story of the most powerful and influential empress of the Mughal dynasty. It tells us the story of Mehrunnisa later known as Empress Nur Jahan. The book is works for historic fiction, with a lot of its facts having a basis in reality.

The underlying theme of the book is how the women held a very real power in the Mughal Empire, from behind their veils. This is the first instalment of the Taj Trilogy. It starts with the birth of a girl in the dessert during a storm, whose parents had decided to give her up. Little did they know that in the coming years, she would become one of the most powerful empresses to ever rule the Mughal Empire.

Being raised in the vicinity of the Zenana (quarters of the royal women in the Mughal empire) most of her childhood, Mehrunnisa saw Prince Jahangir during his first wedding when she was just 8. At that age she had decided in her mind that someday she would marry him. And as history would have it, she did marry him, becoming his twentieth and last wife.

The books takes you through Mehrunnisa’s life, her childhood years in the Zenana, interactions with the then empress Ruqayya Begam, her first marriage to a soldier in the Mughal Army, competing with Empress Jagat Gosini and other trials that kept her from the love of her life, Jhangir. With steady determination she managed to get the attention of Jhangir over his harem of wives and hundreds of concubines and established herself as the Empress, the most important of his wives.

From page one the books is engrossing. It is not just the characters but also the time and the places that are discussed in the book that drew me to it. Although you know the end, it is the journey of Mehrunnisa’s life that is so intriguing. Sunderesan’s writing is mesmerising and describes beautiful scenes in the book with a language that makes the reader feel they are standing in midst of the intricately described bazzars, the palace, the Diwan-i-Aam, the court, the harem etc. It is a must read for anyone who fancies the Mughal Empire. One of the most beautiful books I have read.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/The-Twentieth-Wife-A-Novel/dp/0743428188

Find Out More About the Author :  http://www.indusundaresan.com/Default.aspx

Inferno – Dan Brown

InfernoTitle : Inferno

Author : Dan Brown

ISBN-10: 0385537859

ISBN-13 : 978-0385537858

Paperback : 480 pages

The Plot :

In Dan Brown’s latest work ‘Inferno’, Harvard Professor of symbology Robert Langdon is back with a new mission. This time he is in a race for time trying to save the world from the evil plan of a crazy yet brilliant scientist ‘Bertrand Zobrist’ who has decided to eradicate more than half the world’s population by releasing a deadly virus, to solve the problem of over population.

The book starts with Langdon waking up in a hospital with a couple of stitches on is head and no recollection of how he got there. As soon as he wakes up he is shot at and manages to run for his life with the help of ‘Sienna Brooks’, a beautiful doctor who is tending to him. He realizes he is in Florence and the last memory he has is of walking down the campus of Harvard University.

With the help of Sienna, he manages to get some details of how he was admitted in the hospital, and finds a cylindrical vial of bio hazardous material in his jacket. Assuming that is what the shooter was looking for he plans to call the US consulate to ask for protection and gives them his hiding location. Soon the shooter arrives at the location and a SWAT team, cementing his suspicion that his government is the one who wants him dead.

Again Sienna and Langdon manage to outsmart the shooter and the SWAT teams and manage to escape in the nick of time. They plan to open the cylinder and investigate why someone would want it badly enough to kill and how Langdon came to possess it. Soon they discover that it is a medieval bone cylinder with some sort of high end projector that on being shaken projects an image of Botticelli’s Map of Hell. Being an expert in symbology and having seen this work of art before he realizes it is not the original work but a modified piece.

Using his skills he and Sienna try and uncover the hidden message in the artwork and this takes them across Florence, all the time being chased not just by the shooter but now also by a SWAT team. Meantime there is a submarine somewhere which houses a team of people who have been helping Zobrist with his mission, without knowing what the mission is in entirety or how dangerous it could be. The head of the World health Organization is also involved in this chase to stop the villain from unleashing a deadly virus on the world.

With multiple twists and turns and a nail biting finish, Inferno is an addictive piece of fiction. Dan Brown has maintained a break neck pace from the very first page and keeps the reader guessing while evoking a range of emotions throughout the book. I loved this book and I highly recommend it anyone who is looking for a fast paced thriller.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Inferno-Dan-Brown/dp/0385537859

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.danbrown.com/

Bossypants – Tina Fey

BossypantsTitle : Bossypants

Author  : Tina Fey

ISBN-10 : 0316056898

ISBN-13 : 978-0316056892 

Paperback : 272 pages

The Plot :

Tina Fey’s Bossypants is an autobiography. For those who aren’t aware, Tina Fey is an American comedienne who stared in popular shows like Saturday Night Live, created and stared in 30 Rock. She has also stared in other comedy movies such as ‘Mean Girls’, ‘Date Night’ and ‘Baby Mama’. She was also one of the first female lead writers of the SNL team and also made her debut as a film writer by adapting the book ‘Queen bees and wannabes’ into the popular movie ‘Mean Girls’.

The book follows her throughout her early life till she created the mega hit show 30 Rock. It talks about her family and friends and people she met along the way including people like Aleck Baldwin, Amy Poehler etc. It talks about her journey to 30 Rock with a 9 year stop at an island called ‘Saturday Night Live’. The book is full of funny anecdotes from Fey’s life.

This has to be, by far one of the funniest books I have read. Tina Fey has a way with jokes and words and puts them together is such a wonderfully entertaining way. With not a dull moment the book is an amazing ‘light read’. I was reading this on a flight and was often caught giggling while reading through the night. For someone who is a huge fan of Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and all the other works of Tina Fey, this was in incredible opportunity to get a funny, insider look into these works and her life.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Bossypants-Tina-Fey/dp/0316056898

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.tinafeyfan.com/

Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat Pray loveTitle : Eat Pray Love : One Woman’s Search For Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Author : Elizabeth Gilbert

ISBN-10: 1594132666

ISBN-13 : 978-1594132667

Paperback : 631 pages

The Plot :

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love is a cross between a memoir and a travelogue. It takes you through a journey across 3 different countries, enjoying something different, each of them has to offer.

The story starts with Elizabeth Gilbert (‘Liz’) going through a horrible break up with the love of her life soon after ending her marriage. This leaves Liz emotionally drained and in a very bad place emotionally. She blames herself for the ending of both the relationships in quick succession. Liz is a travel writer and enjoys her job as she is a wanderlust. Just as things become too difficult to deal with, she decides to take a yearlong trip across 3 different countries to recuperate emotionally. The book is divided into three sections, each talking about the four months spent in a different country.

The first section starts with Italy. Here Liz goes to explore the pleasures of life (mainly of the victual kind), hence the ‘Eat’ in the title. She makes new friends and learns ‘Il bel far nientemeaning the beauty of doing nothing. Meanwhile learning and perfecting her Italian which was one of her goals. Here she finds her past haunting her and she tries to deal with it the best way she can. She makes interesting friends who introduce her to exquisite food and good stable relationships. After her 4 month stint in Italy she has a farewell feast with her friends, shows off her Italian skills, and moves on to the next leg of her journey.

In the second section Liz finds herself in an Ashram in India. Here she has come looking for the spiritual side of life, hence the ‘Pray’ in the title. She comes looking for a Guru to help her navigate a path to spiritual learning. She doesn’t get to meet the guru but does find her way spiritually. In the process she makes some new friends and they help her let go of the guilt and the past and move on to newer things.

Finally, she goes to Bali, Indonesia, looking to strike a balance between ‘Pleasures of Life’ and ‘Spirituality’. Here she manages to finally find love that is different from the past, and so the ‘Love’ in the title. Here she meets the old ninth-generation medicine man ‘Ketut’ who had predicted that she would come live with him for an extended period, during one of her previous travels. She again makes some new friends and helps them with simple things. She helps Ketut preserve his knowledge in the form of books and helps a single mother and her daughter build their dream house. In the course of all this she learns to deal with her own issues and lands up helping herself. She also falls in love with a Brazilian businessman and things seem good.

What I loved the most about the book was its simplicity. No one wants to be totally hedonistic neither does one want to be an ascetic. This book talks about the search for that balance and that is the central theme of the book. Don’t look to the book for any life altering solutions to live a better life or tips on being happy because you will be sorely disappointed. All the book does is tells you the story of a woman and how she took a break from her life for a year and gave herself the time to heal emotionally. In short it is a journey of self-discovery. It is well written for the most part but it does get slow at times. Overall a good read!

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Eat-Pray-Love-Everything-Indonesia/dp/1594132666

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/

About The Movie : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0879870/

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Perks of being a wallflowerTitle : The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author : Stephen Chbosky

ISBN-10: 1451696191

ISBN-13 : 978-1451696196

Paperback : 224 pages

The Plot :

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a coming of age novel about a 15 year old boy called Charlie. The entire book is written as a collection of multiple letters (Epistolary) that Charlie writes to an anonymous receiver. In these letters Charlie writes all about his day/week and you get to live his freshman year with him through his letters. A couple of months before the letters begin Charlie’s best friend Michael, commits suicide. He is also diagnosed with some mental issues (most probably schizophrenia). Another incident that occurs before the letters start, but have a major impact throughout the book on Charlie, is the fatal accident that his Aunt Helen has on his seventh birthday.

Charlie is a shy, unpopular and ‘weird’ kid amongst his peers. He is socially awkward and is far more intelligent as compared to the people his age. He is very observant and thinks quietly about things and so is the ‘wallflower’ from the title.

As his freshman year starts he makes friends with two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who are step brother and sister to each other.  They have their own pasts and could be considered different from the rest as well. Sam has a dark past, where she was very promiscuous and Patrick is hiding an affair with the high school quarterback. This friendship is what helps Charlie throughout his freshman year. Sam and Patrick introduce him to their friends, the other misfits. He forms close relationships with them but is the closest to Sam and Patrick. Another important character in the book is Charlie’s English Teacher, Bill, who sees how special Charlie is and introduces him to a lot of books and tries to teach him various life lessons through them.

He experiences a lot of firsts with this group of people and navigates through life as a high school freshman. He has determined to ‘participate’ more this year and thus takes up the opportunities when he gets invited to his first high school party, tries alcohol, smoking, drugs, kissing, high school dances, dating, sex etc. His one constant in all this is his letter writing, where he talks about what is going on in his head and how he interprets things. With a very different and innocent way of thinking he forms a bond with the reader. He is very happy to have made friends this year because he feels like his family doesn’t understand him, and the only one who really understood him was his Aunt Helen but she is no more.

The books follows a series of events where you find Charlie is learning different things and how he makes a mess of the situations because he is just not used to social situations. Soon his friends are leaving for college and disturbing memories of his Aunt Helen molesting him before she died push him over the edge. But with the help of friends and family he recovers and figures out a way to remain happy.

Even though the subject of the book has dark undertones, it ends with a positive and hopeful note. What drew me to the books was the way the author portrays the innocence of Charlie. The way he thinks about situations and the way he reacts to them are so different and many times makes you chuckle silently. It gives you hope that however weird or different you may be there is a group of equally weird people around where you will feel at home. I also got a list of books to read from the reading list Bill prescribes Charlie. Overall a good read.

 Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Perks-Being-Wallflower-Stephen-Chbosky/dp/1451696191/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374127415&sr=1-1&keywords=the+perks+of+being+a+wallflower

Find Out More About the Author :  http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Stephen-Chbosky/1843916

About The Movie : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1659337/?ref_=sr_1

Memoirs Of A Geisha – Arthur Golden

Memoirs Of a GeishaTitle : Memoirs Of A Geisha

Author : Arthur Golden

ISBN-10: 1400096898

ISBN-13 : 978-1400096893

Paperback : 512 pages

The Plot :

The story of Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is set before and after World War II in the popular Geisha district of Gion in Kyoto, Japan. It is a 1st person narrative about the life of a Geisha in Japan. It is told from the perspective of a 9 year old girl called Chiyo, and follows her throughout her life.

With the death of her mother at the age of 9 Chiyo and her sister Satsu get sold to an Okiya (Geisha House) in the prominent Geisha district of Gion in Kyoto, far away from their hometown. Here as soon as they reach, they are separated and sent to different Okiyas. In her Okiya, Chiyo lives with an array of strict characters called Grandmother, Mother and Aunty. There is another girl close to her age called Pumpkin. There is also a beautiful Geisha, the most popular Geisha in all of Kyoto, called Hatsumomo. She immediately develops a dislike for Chiyo and takes every opportunity to mistreat her and get her into trouble.

Feeling hopeless and caged in a foreign town, Chiyo tries to fight it and tries to escape every chance she gets. She plans to look for her sister and go back home with her. The only hope she has is her budding friendship with Pumpkin, who teaches her the ways of the Okiya. Pumpkin tells her how they will start schooling to become Geisha and soon they will start going out and entertaining clients. The money minded mother at the Okiya keeps a list of every expense incurred by the Okiya because of Chiyo.

Pumpkin explains to her that when she grows up and starts earning, all her income goes to the Okiya to pay back the debt collected.  In one of her times of desperation she gets some encouragement and help from a man called The Chairman. He is the only one who treats her like a person. Even though he is much older than her, she starts to fall in love with him. He is always in the presence of beautiful geishas and so Chiyo decides that she will strive hard and become a famous geisha so that she gets to meet the Chairman again.

With a couple of failed attempts to escape, Mother and Aunty get irritated with Chiyo and decide that she should stop schooling and should pay off her debt to the Okiya by working as a slave all her life at the Okiya, tending to the likes of Hatsumomo and Pumpkin and them instead of becoming a Geisha. She slowly starts to get envious of Pumpkin, but life goes on.

One day, another prominent Geisha, the only real competition to Hatsumomo called Mameha, shows up at the Okiya and asks to mentor Chiyo, free of any costs. Mother and Aunty jump at the opportunity, but this makes Pumpkin and Hatsumomo her rivals. Pumpkin is instructed not to speak with Chiyo and Mameha is the only friend that Chiyo has. Under Mameha’s tutelage she resumes her geisha studies and starts to excel at it. Soon she is to make her debut as a Maiko (apprentice Geisha). Pumpkin is average in her skills and beauty, but Chiyo now renamed Sayuri soon establishes herself as one of the premier Maiko in Kyoto. This makes Hatsumomo play dirty and spread rumours and tarnish Sayuri’s reputation in Kyoto.

With the help of Mameha and her skills she manages to combat it and manages to frequently meet the Chairman. And just as things are about to settle down and she can start to tell the Chairman about her feelings, Japan enters World War II and most of the Geisha are evacuated to work in factories. Betrayals from Pumpkin and other harsh circumstances push Sayuri to her limit. After years and many more twists in the tale she finally gets a chance to meet the chairman and set things right.

The reason I fell in love with this book was because the writing is so beautiful, that it totally transported me to a new culture that I was not aware of. It spoke about their traditions and customs and places and clothes. It is so beautifully written that I could almost feel myself standing in the cherry blossoms, when it was described. The author also paints beautiful pictures of the kimonos and head gear and other ornaments worn by the Geisha to the beautiful names of the characters and places like the Itchiriki Tea house that stuck with me. Overall I think it is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Memoirs-Geisha-Arthur-Golden/dp/1400096898/ref=tmm_mmp_title_0

About The Movie : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0397535/?ref_=sr_1

The Prince and The Pauper – Mark Twain

Prince and PauperTitle : The Prince and The Pauper

Author : Mark Twain

ISBN-10: 0140436693

ISBN-13 : 978-0140436693

Paperback : 224 pages

The Plot :

Mark Twain’s ‘The Prince and The Pauper’ is a classic tale of identity exchange. Beautifully written, this story is set in 1547 England during the reign of King Henry VIII. The main characters are, as the name suggests, a prince named Edward Tudor and pauper named Tom Canty, who bear an uncanny resemblance to each other.

The only life that the pauper has known involves begging all day long, sleeping on an empty stomach and being on the receiving end of a harsh beating from his father and grandmother every night. The prince on the other hand is the most celebrated child in all of England. He has every comfort he can think of but it all come with certain formalities and ceremonies that he has to abide by. To escape the hunger and the pain of the thrashings, Tom builds up an imaginary world where he is a king and retreats into this world every night. Come day light he is utterly disappointed and his only wish in life is to meet a real life prince. The only thing Edward longs for is to play in the mud and the river as he pleases but is not allowed these ‘luxuries’ on account of his position.

One day it so happens that the prince and the pauper happen to see each other and realize how alike they are and how the other has the life they dream of. So they decide to exchange clothes and to pretend to be each other. During the course of this the price sees the difference between how people of different classes are treated in his kingdom. He pauper at the same time learns about the charmed life the prince lives.

They both have a series of adventures, including threats to their life, escaping captivity, regal dinners, matters of the state and law, gangs of thieves and a prison stint. Along the way the two boys make strong allies who help them adjust to their new roles without any knowledge of the switch. In the end the real prince has to return to his rightful position to take the throne after his father, King Henry VIII passes away, but no one believes he is the real prince. With a nail biting finish, the story concludes with a very positive note.

What I personally loved in the book were the multiple instances that show the innocence of children and the way it is juxtaposed with the cruelty and wickedness of adults. I also like the language of the book, being written in the Victorian style that gives it a sort of formality. It transported me to a different era, and I love that aspect of a book. Overall it is a very good read and I highly recommend it.

Links:

Buy the Book From : http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Pauper-Penguin-Classics/dp/0140436693/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374116118&sr=1-4&keywords=the+prince+and+the+pauper

Find Out More About the Author : http://www.cmgww.com/historic/twain/index.php