book review

The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer - A non-review

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‘The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer’  by Laxmi Hariharan - There were three things that intrigued me about this book and its titular character.

  • One - Though far from being an avid reader of the YA genre, I haven’t come across many books featuring an Indian female protagonist.
  • Two - To me, the ‘many lives’ phrase, indicated that much like the cat, the titular character too has a ‘track-record’  of frequently cheating death. This further piqued my curiosity.
  • Third - And this might just be me. As I’m now a part-Iyer by marriage (yes, I know it doesn’t work that way, but wouldn’t it be cool if it did?), I found the name rather cool.
 

Despite not reading Laxmi’s debut novel, ‘The Destiny of Shaitan’, I've come to enjoy her writing style courtesy of her various Facebook updates and her blog. And the snippets and the blurb further cemented my decision to read the book when it came out. So when Laxmi pinged me and asked me if I’d be interested in reading Ruby’s story in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance. Despite my long-standing statement that I’m not really much of a book reviewer. As this strange book critiquing might explain.

 

Here is the Goodreads blurb :

A YA thriller, with strong dystopian undertones and a kickass protagonist, taking you on a white knuckle ride through a disintegrating Bombay City.
A girl desperate to rescue her best friend.
A cop willing to do anything to save the city he serves.
A delusional doctor bent on annihilation.
When Ruby Iyer's best friend is kidnapped by the despotic Dr Kamini Braganza, she will do anything to rescue him. Anything, including taking the help of the reticent Vikram Roy, a mysterious cop-turned-rogue on a mission to save Bombay. The city needs all the help it can get, and these two are the only thing standing between its total destruction by Dr Braganza's teen army. As Bombay falls apart around them, will Ruby be able to save her friend and the city? Will she finally discover her place in a city where she has never managed to fit in? And what about her growing feelings for Vikram?

In the interest of being honest, I must say this - as a lot of readers tend to do, I too had initially assumed Ruby’s life to be largely based on Laxmi’s life and her experiences. And despite having spoken to Laxmi about this and having had my assumptions set straight, I still had a lingering thought. To say I was wrong, would probably be an understatement.

Ruby is as unique as people get. She may appear to have all the rebellious streaks of a teenager - a problem with authority, a myriad of thoughts running through her head constantly and wanting to do it all. However she’s also uniquely different. From the ‘lightning tree’ scar that pulsates with energy to the way she throws herself into every situation, she has a spirit of her own. After reading then book, while I still cannot say if Ruby Iyer has traces of Laxmi Hariharan in her, I can confidently say this - Ruby seems to have written the book through Laxmi. No, I’m not taking away any credit from Laxmi herself. Detaching yourself from your characters is something that even extremely experienced authors with numerous books behind them, have struggled with. However Laxmi, as an author with whom I’ve had a fair few interactions and Ruby, who led me through her story at breakneck pace (a bit too rapid at times, for this old soul of mine), are as different as chalk and cheese.

I won’t go into too many details about the story, the plot and the rest. I suspect that’s been done a fair few times. As a character, Ruby Iyer is uniquely different, a tad eccentric and sometimes unrealistically stubborn. So much so that there are times when I felt the need to slap the very book over Ruby’s head. But truth be told, THAT is also the success of then book. While the story did fall apart for me at places (probably because of a mishmash of the thought process and too rapid mono/dialogues), the fact that Ruby sort of stays with you after you finish then took is a testament to both Ruby and Laxmi.

My only discontent with the book is something rather personal. The ‘YA’ genre is not really my cup of tea, and hence probably why there may be parts that I sort of wanted to skip. However it is also imperative that I say this - on the whole, the book is cohesive and well-written. Having never been a fan of the magical city of Mumbai myself, there were plenty of times that I felt that along with Ruby, I too was whizzing around through a dark and sometimes racy version of the ‘City of Dreams’.  The attention to detail is almost perfect (if a tad too much) and if you’re really looking for something fast-paced and a kind of ‘Fantasy meets YA’ genre, with a good amount of thrills and plot twists, this is a decent read.

The book is now available via Amazon.

 Note : This review has not been 'sponsored or commissioned' by the author, the book's publishers or anyone else. All the thoughts are mine and the book and cover image copyright remains with the author and the publishers.


 

About the author

A near life incident told Laxmi Hariharan to write. She never stopped.

Laxmi has been a journalist with The Independent and a global marketer with MTV and NBCUniversal. She is the author of the kindle bestselling, epic fantasy The Destiny of Shaitan (Bombay Chronicles, 1) and blogs for the Huffington Post among others.

London is where she creates. 

Bombay is what fires her imagination.

Business Doctors - Book Review

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Image courtesy : http://www.mbacrystalball.com/ Business Doctors - That’s a catchy name, don’t you think? I do, and that’s why it caught my attention back around May 2014, when everyone I knew was reviewing it. As a rule, I don’t read or write reviews for books unless I really have to. Then why make an exception this time, you ask? Well, sometimes when the positives outweigh the “can be improved” side of the balance, it seems unfair not to write a review. Plus Sameer asked me very nicely. What can I say - I’m a sucker for politeness.
When Sameer eventually asked me to review his book, after my rather honest take on Mango Chutney, initially I declined. But then he made his case. We discovered that we both had management backgrounds and we both had decided to go down a path less walked upon in terms of career changes, and eventually he got me to say yes. To review the book, that is.  

This is what the Good Reads blurb says about the book :
WHEN THE CORPORATE WORLD MEETS THE UNDERWORLD
 
Ivy League educated management consultant, Michael Schneider, gets hired by an unlikely client – a desperate mafia boss who wants to give a makeover to his family business that spans across gambling, drugs and porn. But the client's seductive wife and bumbling goons weren't part of the deal Michael signed up for.

The first thing that you notice about the book as soon as you pick it up is that for a self-published book by an Indian author, the cover is a big positive. A dapper man (with an almost-Bradley-Cooper-esque jawline) holding a mean ass gun - I mean, does it get better than this for a sort of “Michael Corleone (The Godfather) meets John Grisham” type of book? I think not. The biggest peeve that I have with most Indian authored books is the cover. I honestly cannot get myself to pick up a book with an unappealing cover. Thankfully, Business Doctors isn’t one of them.

Before I go any further, I’d like to put forth a disclaimer - The opinions expressed here are entirely mine and has not been influenced in any way, shape or form by Sameer or any one else who may have reviewed the book. And with that established, I’ll dive in.

What worked for me

  • I might not be the first person to say this about the book, but I sure as hell will not be the last. Sameer’s concept for Business Doctors is (pardon my usage!) bloody brilliant. In today’s Indian fiction scene, where everyone is a writer “bursting” to tell their stories  (yours truly included), it is imperative that every book has a Unique Selling Point - USP, if you will. And Business Doctors has its USP in the form of the concept. Not in a hundred years could I have imagined that the principles of management consulting could be tied so smoothly to the Underworld. But somehow, Sameer does it. And I have to tip my imaginary hat to him for that.
  • It is a welcome change to see an Indian author churn out believable and almost authentic American characters in an all-American setting. And the fact that “Hinglish” doesn’t raise its ugly head, is such a welcome relief. Sameer -  if you’re reading this, you must accept this virtual high-five from me.
  • The main characters are fairly sketched out and almost three-dimensional, each complete with their own unique quirks, insecurities and even sense of dressing. But for me, some of the minor characters stood out too, especially Joe.
  • The unravelling of the plot - though the pace did slow down at times, the overall plot and storyline succeeds in keeping the element of intrigue intact. While I wouldn’t quite describe the book as an un-put-downable one, Sameer has cleverly weaved everything together.
  • The Management jargon - Sameer has taken special care to almost “dumb down” some of the management lingo, probably to ensure that even people from non-management backgrounds can appreciate the book.  But yes, there is still a fair bit of management principles and “discoveries” and “solutions” in there.

What didn’t quite work for me

  • The mysterious disappearance of Martin - As someone who at times, seems to be the more sensible of the duo, in my head, I’d imagine Martin to have a more meatier role. However, when he suddenly disappears without so much as a sign, as a reader, it leaves me with more questions.
  • Mr. Woody - The Mafia boss is portrayed to be violent and ruthless. However, at no point during the book did I, as a reader, feel intimidated by him.
  • The Mafia operations  - While I appreciate that it may not be a field that the author has full and complete access to (I hope not - Are you with “The Family”, Sameer?), personally I was expecting a bit more of the “oomph” factor for the Mafia operations. Instead, when Sameer simplified some of the management jargon, he seems to have inadvertently conventionalised the workings of a Mafia organisation.
  • And this is one thing the author is probably tired of hearing, but I honestly miss the paragraph breaks. At times, it almost felt like they were avoided to reduce the number of pages.

The Verdict

For a first time author, Business Doctors is a promising book. If  you have a bit of management background (even a very basic one), you must pick it up for the single fact that someone has dared to attempt to “fiction-ize” this topic. However if you have absolutely zero interest or experience in management, you may find yourself losing a bit of interest and skipping a few pages. Overall, the best way to describe this book would be:

It is experimental masala fiction peppered with interesting nuggets of management lessons. I’d definitely recommend it as a one-time read.

 

About the Author An MBA graduate from the prestigious University of Cambridge, Sameer Kamat also manages two websites - Booksoarus and MBA Crystal Ball