Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Review - Didda: The Warrior Queen of Kashmir

Today if you speak word Kashmir all you hear would be terrorism, violence, and POK. The place has already lost its status of "Swarg - Heaver on the Earth" or "Switzerland of India". But what was the situation of Kashmir before British rule or even before that? Slowly that history is eroding from our mind. Ashish Kaul has brought a wonderful character from the pages of the past and shown us a warrior queen of the Kashmir Didda. I didn't think for once to decide whether to review it or not, as I have already made my mind to read it.

Book Blurb
A girl abandoned by her parents. A disabled princess who fights all odds to become the most feared warrior queen. A woman almost forced into Sati by her trusted prime Minister. A mother whose son brands her as a witch. This is the story of Rani Didda, the forgotten Hindu queen of undivided Kashmir. History is often unkind and cruel to women, especially women who wield power. Trampled by Wars and religious crusades, lies hidden the story of a glorious woman who was considered a harbinger of bad times when she was born but went on to become a legendary warriors saviour of Srinagar, the capital city of Kashmir. Didda: the warrior queen of Kashmir is the untold story of a woman’s rise to power during the tenth century. The legend of Didda is entwined with a life of solitary struggles against prejudice and patriarchy. She eventually went on to rule the unified Kashmir encompassing the lohar kingdom and Kashmir for a period of forty-four years, taking it to glorious heights and making it the most powerful kingdom in mediaeval Asia. The foundation laid by Didda helped Kashmir defeat the dreaded warlord Mahmud of ghaznavi twice.
Didda is our central character. She became cripple in her childhood (maybe due to Polio) and became the least favorite/wanted member of her family. In spite of that the fighting spirit of Didda and bravery, intelligence combo in her trait made her pass the sea of problems. After much efforts, she was married off to an addict King of Kashmir. When Didda came to Kashmir she saw a dilapidated kingdom, which needed a kind nurturer. With the help of her husband, she got control over the kingdom. When she lost her husband she revolted against Prime Minister & traditions and got herself out of Sati tradition. From then on she ruled Kashmir with an iron clad till his own son under influence of his wife asked Didda to step down. Read the book to know how she came back to rule and tried to steer the kingdom from a tough time.

The jewel of the story is the way Didda flow from one situation/place/role to another. Each situation demanded different expectations and she fought through them. I found her as a role model for today's women instead of modern ones who think wearing cloth of their choice and behaving like men are women empowering. (But that's a myth.) A must read on women hero from the history of India.

Good points about the book
  • Nice characterizations.
  • Each language usage
  • Moderate in size and length
Talking about ratings
  1. Cover - 4.5/5
  2. Concept - 4/5
  3. Characterization - 4.5/5
  4. Overall - 4.5/5
Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Book Review - Around the World in 80 Cocktails by Chad Parkhill

A colorful cover and a catchy title got my attention when I saw this book the first time. I have seen titles like "Around the world in 80 days", "Around the world in 80 trains", "Around the world in 80 Dates" but 80 cocktails. That was completely new for me. So curiosity built up inside me. I like to try various combinations of mocktails at home, so when I saw this book, I actually saw it as an opportunity to try 80 new drinks. I expected it as a normal recipe book but it turned out as a complete surprise for me. I was flat by its artwork.

Book Blurb
Around the World in 80 Cocktails celebrates the globetrotting history of the cocktail through eighty different iconic drinks – each of which has its own story to tell. Bartender and writer Chad Parkhill takes you on a whirlwind tour of the places that have shaped the history of the cocktail from its birth to the present day, with recipes so you can follow along at home.
You'll learn about the surprising military history behind the bubbly, vivacious Venetian Spritz; how the G&T moved from India to England (and why the best in the world are now made in Spain); and how France's Burgundy region turned tragedy into triumph with the Kir. Accompanied by gorgeous vintage-style illustrations that evoke antique travel posters, these stories and recipes are an ode to the joys of travel, history, and drinking.
Coming to the text content, as the title suggests the book discusses 80 well-known cocktails from various cultures & countries. Each cocktail is dedicated to a chapter, which covered history or basic facts about that drink. It also covers recipes and ingredients required for that cocktail. If you love booze you will enjoy these drinks, but if you are a nonalcoholic (nondrinker) you may substitute flavored soft drink and convert it to a tasty mocktail. I tried a few you may also. Check out the book to know more.

Those who are not aware:
A cocktail is an alcoholic drink.
A mocktail is a nonalcoholic drink
Let's take a review of artwork. This is I am discussing specifically. The beauty of the book is the artwork. The illustrator Alice Oehr has given wonderful depictions of each cocktail along with the culture or place it belongs to. The culture is visible in the background of each chapter.

Good points
  • A perfect combination of art & culture
  • Light in nature,. If you like a chapter read it, if you don't, skip it.
  • The recipe described are easy to try
  • You can use it for a showcase or as a coffee table book
  • Good quality of pages and graphics
In and all, I liked it. And yes I am giving 5 stars to art and 4.5 stars to the book.

Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq: Tale of a Tyrant - A Book Review

"Muhammad Bin Tughlaq: Tale of a Tyrant" is my 7th book read/review by Anuja. I consider myself lucky to get review copy (in exchange for an honest review) of one of India's leading author. She is one of our favorite authors. Her books hold a special place in ourselves. Whenever I feel I got too comfortable with debut Indian author and want a change I try Anuja's books. Her writing style is completely different. She seldom writes multi-protagonist (character) book, she takes one (maximum two) character and creates her magic of words.

Book Blurb

When his father dies, Prince Jauna Khan succeeds to the throne of Delhi as Muhammad bin Tughlaq. His reign will prove to be epic and bloody, but unsurpassed in splendour, innovation and defeat. 
A formidable strategist and remarkable scholar, the Sultan will go down in history for his brutality as well as his brilliance, unfairly remembered only as a cruel tyrant who might have been raving mad. His high-flown aspirations and grandiose ambitions may have met with crushing failure, but even so, Tughlaq was a great hero of the fourteenth century, albeit a tragic and fatally flawed one.
In this fictional retelling, Anuja Chandramouli, one of India's best mythology writers, reimagines Muhammad bin Tughlaq's life and times in incredible detail to bring to life the man behind the monarch
Tughlaq is the book about Juana a.k.a. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq. The story started when Tughlaq was kept as caretaker of messenger service under Ghazi Malik, virtually house arrest or kept away from his father Ghiasuddin Tughlaq so that his father cannot attack Delhi. Tughlaq was able to run away from Ghazi Maliq and joined his father. Together they took back Delhi from clutches of Ghazi Malik. His father got the sultanate after Ghazi Malik in absence of capable candidate from Khilji dynasty. It was decided that Juana being the firstborn of Ghiasuddin would inherit the crown after his father. He was young and he had a different thought process, he believed in meritocracy but people around his were old academy guys. His struggle started when he started a campaign against southern kingdoms. Check out the book to know more. 

Like any of her previous work, Anuja has portrayed her protagonist (Tughlaq) in a completely new avatar. We have been taught about his blunders in schools, but we never got to know his reasoning behind those idea and why they failed miserably. Anuja has shown Tughlag more like a failed hero than a villain who was surrounded by orthodox, power-hungry ministers. Detailing of characters, situations and plots are merged so wonderfully that you feel like watching it as a live. There are many authors whose efforts became visible when they give plot information in between conversation some times such efforts feel like distractions. One thing I observed (and liked) was language usage, Anuja has changed a lot compared to her initial work. She had an awesome control over words, she can easily impress any literature savvy guy. But that can hinder readership count. Luckily all of her books did great till now, still, she has started using easier language. So this time I was enjoying the book more than keeping up with words. 

Overall a nice read. A different character to read. The book is full with Muslim character's names which were somewhat difficult to cope up with. It made me read some pages more than once.

  1. Cover - 3.5/5
  2. Concept - 4.5/5
  3. Characters - 4.5/5
  4. Overall - 4/5
Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Digital Value Discovery: Tipping Point for Operations Manager - A Book Review

Being a Data Scientist and having a major in Operations I would always like to read material to improve processes and efficiencies. I have read books on Six Sigma, Digitization, Marketing, etc. "Digital Value Discovery - Tipping Point for Operations Manager" got my attention as I saw Possibilities of exploring digital side of operations management. While checking the book blurb I found that initial content similar to Six Sigma. The differentiation was the discussion of digital framework & neuroplasticity that I didn't find as part of any six sigma book till now.

Book Blurb
This book provides a solution for the following challenges of an operations manager in the service industry.
1.How to provide end-to-end visibility of the flow of transactions across applications, locations, and teams and identify the breaks in the process?
2.How to quantify time and the cost of non-value add transactions in a case life cycle?
3.How the business can be self-reliant with less dependency on IT to configure metrics and build a dashboard?
4.How to identify the possible and root cause for the longest and shortest path of the case cycle?
5.What is the tested framework to provide actionable insights for technology innovation and emotional intelligence?
6.In the instantly changing ways of working, domain, and technology landscape, how to inculcate the learnability skills to swiftly learn new domains and technology?
DVD is the tested framework with the following components – case tracker, value discovery, config metrics, and knowledge graphs to provide actionable insights for technological innovation and emotional intelligence. This framework discusses all possible technological and business solutions. Neuroplasticity is discussed to improve the learnability skills to learn new domains and technology swiftly. 
Talking about the content book is divided into two major parts. The first part (1st to 7th chapter) contains what is Digital Value Discovery, what are the components of the DVD. Each chapter from there (2nd to 7th) discuss each component in detail. The second part contains Emotional Intelligence. Where the 1st part is about how to achieve success in business (projects and/or organization), the second part is more towards strengthening mental abilities to reach the zenith of professional & personal life.

Good points about the book
  1. Proper thought process - The book is well planned and written with proper flow. Topics discussed shows the practical expertise of the author in the field of operations.
  2. Supportive flow charts - The author has provided supporting charts & flows where ever required. These flow have made the understanding process easy. Especially for a newbie, it would be really helpful.
  3. Examples with Graphs - At the end of many topics, the author has provided examples with processing time and how to estimate/calculate them. 
  4. Neuroplasticity - I personally like the concept. Something different that you won't find in normal Six Sigma books.
Only improvement point I would suggest would be Practical examples. Though the author has discussed mortgage case, such serious topics would need more than one-two example. It will help readers to relate easily. Absence of proper example will usually make a good book into an academic read. Also, the use of color pages could have been better. If they were used for more charts interest quotient would have been higher and if full B&W pages were used the overall cost of the book could have been down. Both the way the author could have used it his side.

I would give 4 out of 5 stars to Mathan for the helpful book. Recommended for Operations Manager or aspirants.

Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Monday, June 3, 2019

Book Review - The Legends of a Startup Guy

Prachi Garg is the only opponent in my bookshelf who have given competition to books of Rashmi Bansal. Being a management graduate and being a Gujarati, it is always fascinating to read about success strategies of businessmen and companies. Super Woman series was able to give us the satisfaction (comparable to Rashmi Bansal's books. Till now Prachi has written only about woman-centric (either alone or with siblings/husband). "The Legends of a Startup Guy" is her first book which is full novel/fiction with a male protagonist.

Book Blurb
Ganesha is Jovial, intelligent and the youngest in the family. A foodie by heart and laid back by nature, he always looked for ways to make life easier. Despite being born to the all-powerful Shiva and Parvati, with uncle Vishnu and aunts Lakshmi and Saraswati to back him at every point in life, he has to battle through many ups and downs to establish his individual identity, just like his accomplished brother, Skanda. Under layers of perfection, benevolence and Jovial extravaganza was a young boy battling to be found for who he really was. The legends of a start-up guy is a tale of someone who was born with a silver spoon and yet, decided to write his own destiny, on his own terms and to bring meaning to his existence out of the shadows of his lineage. It is the story of how an entrepreneur is born, the story of his challenges, and his actions to sail through them, carefully interwoven with stories from the Hindu mythology, to bring to the table the wisdom of the gods.
Before I talk about the plot, can you imagine if Ganesh (the God) decides to get independent from his parents and start something of his own? Any idea what can he do apart from being a god? Here our protagonist is Ganesha, well, not a god but human. Prachi has created a family with Hindu mythology. Parents of Ganesha are Shiva & Parvati. His uncle is Vishnu. They belonged to reputed well to do family with family set business. Lazy Ganesh was full of creativity, and he would like to get his own identity. He got an idea from his pet (rat). His journey is depicted in 170 pages.

Good points about the book
  1. Awesome concept and connection with mythology
  2. Good informative narration about startup struggle. Good pick for people who wanted to start something.
  3. Easy to follow language
  4. Good for any age group and even for beginners
  5. The simple and fast narration style
  6. Light read can give company on your trips
  7. Beginners and learners can take this book with ease
Overall a different genre book - fiction by previously non-fictional writer, but the domain of startup and entrepreneurship is still the main topic. I would give 3.5/5 to this book.

Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Book Review - Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

I have picked up this book from this year's book fair. My eyes went on this book and I knew I had to buy this book. I have read Paulo Coelho's work before and I have loved it so I was eager to know what this book contains.

Book Blurb
Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for: youth and beauty, pleny of attractive boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family. Yet something is lacking in her life. Inside her is a void so deep that nothing could possibly ever fill it. So, on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up.

Naturally Veronika is stunned when she does wake up at Villete, a local mental hospital, where the staff informs her that she has, in fact, partially succeeded in achieving her goal. While the overdose didn't kill Veronika immediately, the medication has damaged her heart so severely that she has only days to live.

The story follows Veronika through the intense week of self-discovery that ensues. To her surprise, Veronika finds herself drawn to the confinement of Villete and its patients, who, each in his or her individual way, reflect the heart of human experience. In the heightened state of life's final moments, Veronika discovers things she has never really allowed herself to feel before: hatred, fear, curiosity, love, and sexual awakening. She finds that every second of her existence is a choice between living and dying, and at the eleventh hour emerges more open to life than ever before.
Veronika is a beautiful, attractive girl, has a basic job and a comfortable living. She finds no excitement in her life and so she finally decides to end it but her attempt was foul. And she ends up in a mental hospital where she finds out that she has limited days to live. But the things that happen in that mental hospital changes her life and she ends up wanting to live again. If you want to find out what happened in that hospital you have to read the book.

I loved the character of Veronika and I have also found similarities between her and myself. Her character is written beautifully along with the characters of Zedka who was in the hospital for her depression, Mari who was there for her anxiety attacks but her illness has been long cured but she still choose to be in the mental hospital, and finally Eduard the schizophrenic and also Veronika's lover. The storyline for these characters is spellbound.

Although this book does start negatively and you may feel depressed reading the first few pages but I want to tell you that hold on it does get better in the end. Also if you are someone who likes to read peculiar love stories than this book might be it but by saying this that if you think that this book is some romance novel than no but it does feature peculiar romance towards the end. I don't think this book is for everyone, you'll either love it or hate it, in my opinion, I loved this book and I might even read it again in the future.

Some of my favorite lines from the book are below.
I want to continue being mad, living my life the way I dream it, and not the way other people want it to be.
The "mad" always believe in first impressions
Although she had always felt loved and protected, there had been one missing element that would have transformed that love into a blessing, she should have allowed herself to be a little madder. ( Favorite of them all)

  1. Cover : - 4/5
  2. Content : - 4/5
  3. Character : -4/5
  4. Concept : - 4/5
  5. Overall : - 4/5
Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Book Review - Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

"Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind" was a birthday gift from one of my dear friend and the best birthday gift I ever received too. I am so thankful that Jeyul Chalthanwala and Mihir Sutarwala gifted this book to me so special thanks to you.

Book Blurb
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. 

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? 
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come? 
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future.
I am so dumbstruck by this book. I don't read nonfiction that often. Because I found it boring but not this book. I haven't got bored even for a second, with every page I read I get more and more curious about the next page and next chapter.

Sapiens - a brief history of humankind as the name suggests it does explain the events of history but the writing is such that you won't feel that you're reading a history book of school. If only I had this book in my school I would have paid much more attention in history class.

Everything, every event is explained and in a way and in terminology that can be understood by everyone. There are examples given in some places which makes things much easy to understand. At the end also it gives a bit glimpse of what might our future looks like.

I have completely enjoyed this book and it is indeed one of its kind. I think everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime.

  1. Cover : - 4/5
  2. Content : - 5/5
  3. Concept : - 5/5
  4. Overall : - 4.5/5
Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Book Review "Matsyagandha" by Pooja Gupta

Matsyagandha in my humble opinion has conventionally been depicted as a supportive character in popular media. To show her riding a gryphon dressed for battle, the tagline of “A story of a Princess. The rise of a queen” and to base an entire plot around her was enough to pique my interest.

Book Blurb
Long before the Rig Vedic period, many exotic and mystical tribes lived together. The royals of the Matsya clan, who once ruled over all, were now struggling to keep the unity between their Garuda, Yakshin, Naaga and Kimpurusha brothers. All the more, Matsyagandha, the Matsya Princess defies a sacred but a sexist custom to pursue be the first queen out of wedlock. As a result, she is challenged to prove her merit in each of these kingdoms to seek their approval.

Will this little mermaid be able to rise to become a queen without a man by her side?
"Matsyagandha" is a coming of age story of a female protagonist of the same name and her journey to prove herself in a traditional patriarchal society spinning from the events when she chooses to break her marriage.

The book is written in third person narrative. Pooja Gupta successfully captures the scenic beauty of an ancient world and makes it appear in front of your eyes. Every kingdom is described superbly. The chapters are short well placed, and connected. The use of simple language aids the story-line and keeps the readers engaged. 

The author makes use of creative liberty to reimagine the lesser known characters from Mahabharata with fish, snake, eagle and monkey like abilities. Matsyagandha stays in centre throughout the story and plays her part well. Her rebel and free spirit, innocence, self-doubt, never-giving-up attitude and her mermaid appearance flawlessly visualize with the plot. Sheshnaag as an antagonist is depicted superbly as well. The author makes good use of his misogyny and sadist nature to depict a similar society which according to some might relate to today’s world as well. Massendra as the rejected lover-prince place his part well but could had been given more depth.
The rest of the characters like Garuda, Queen Meenakshi are used aptly.

Personally I loved the recreated versions of few Mahabharata stories. However, it was the rushed ending to a well-paced plot that disappointed me the most. Being the first in the series, the ending could had been open making readers eagerly await next. The use of term “Out of wedlock” felt misplaced. But nevertheless the author makes the proper use of every character and incident, regulating the pace where need be, thereby keeping us mostly engaged in this fairy tale world.

Overall, Pooja Gupta starts off reasonably well for her 5-part saga and creates a lush world spanning the ocean, the forests and the sky.
My overall rating for this unique take on Mahabharata would be 3/5.

Overall Verdict:- Fresh outlook to an age old characters

Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Book Review - The Girl in My Dream by Uma Lalitha

I saw author Uma's message in my Goodreads DM that her book "The Girl in My Dream" was available for free just for a day. So I grabbed the copy. I had received my Amazon Kindle device just a week before that message, I wanted to read a book on the device, so "The Girl in My Dream" became my first Kindle Device Read. Frankly speaking, I was not aware of the book so it was a complete surprise for me.

Book Blurb
In the 1940s, famine swept Kunnuruthy town and a young boy named Jagan teamed up with the tribals and revolted against the British for the collection of taxes, but he got fatally injured in the end. In the present, Jagan is old and is running an orphanage and Maya, a young girl who arrives at his orphanage constantly dreams of a strange girl who leads her to a door through a secret tunnel. Maya finds that the girl's name was Nila and sixty years ago, the girl had lived at the same mansion which was now the orphanage. She was in love with Jagan and something terrible had happened to her, which Maya have to find out. Told in two-time lines, 1940s during the British rule in India and 2005, this book is about how the lives of the two girls are intertwined together and how Maya and her friends eventually discover the chilling dark secrets buried years ago.
"The Girl in My Dream" is the story of two girls Maya (2005) & Nila (the 1940s - British era) The story is written for a location/tribal town called Kunnuruthy. Maya's parents died when she was 3-4 years old. Her grandmother had raised her since then. But she also died and eventually Maya ended up in an orphanage called Amarnath Mansion. That orphanage had historical importance for local people. Later on, Maya came to know that the main trustee of the orphanage, Jagan, was somehow linked to Maya's strange dreams that she started getting after her Grandmother's death. One by one mystery started appearing in front of Maya, which was related to Nila. Maya felt that there was something between her dreams, Nila's life, and mansion. Read out the book to know how she unraveled things.

Uma has used simple language to keep readers stick to the book. There are multiple POVs but major ones are from Maya & Nila. In Maya's life apart from mystery, orphanage and related narration were provided. Their struggle was heart touching. Same way in Nila's part, famine impact was also equally emotional. Through the struggle of characters, Uma has shown that we are lucky to have plenty.

Though the book is a self-published, I found professional touch. I didn't find any major flow. Good points about the book
  1. Characterization
  2. Detailing of plot and places
  3. Light read
  4. Suspense and thrill
  5. Unexpected and welcoming climax
Overall a worth reading book. Recommended for trips and vacation. Talking about ratings
  1. Cover - 4/5
  2. Concept - 3.5/5
  3. Characters - 3.75/5
  4. Overall - 3.75/5
Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads