Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interview with Leela Gour Broome

Leela Gour Broome completely impressed me with her very first book - Flute In The Forest (reviewed here) and it was a dream come true when she contacted me after having read the review of the book here.

She gladly accepted the offer to be interviewed so that the readers get to know more about her and her experience of being an author.

  1. Is the story of 'Flute in the Forest' purely fictional or is it inspired by some real life characters, incidents or experiences?

    Flute in the Forest is purely fictional. It has however been inspired by my years living on the tea estates, and several trips through the forests of South India with my own family as well as with friends, over the past 35 years.

  1. What all research did you do to write a story which has detailed account of forest, animals, lifestyles and customs of some tribes inhabiting that area?

  2. With years of experience in forest areas I had little need to do any further research about the forest I wrote about, its flora and fauna. The lifestyles and customs of tribes in most Indian forest areas will be similar, give and take their eating/ living habits, as a lot depends on the vegetation there.

  3. How has been your journey of being an author so far? What has been the most satisfying part of the experience of writing?

  4. The 'journey' as an author has been wonderful. Firstly, a lifelong dream has been achieved, it was my ambition to write since I was barely 15 years old, time and family constraints made the delay, but it was always at the back of my mind. The most satisfying part of the experience has been seeing my first book finally in print. Of course, learning about the entire publishing business has been an eye opener as well.

  5. You mentioned that you live on a farm. How significantly that environment inspires you in giving words to your thoughts?

  6. Living on our farm , and running our nature and environment camps for 16 years nurtured my understanding of YA 12+ generation, their way of thought, and I pretty soon realized there was an enormous dearth of books relevant to this age group.

  7. I read that you have written three books and 'Flute in the Forest' is one of them. When are you planning to get the other two books published? What are those books based on?

  8. I have written 3 books, but the Flute story was the first to be edited by me over and over again, till I was happy I could not do any more to the story, and certain it would find itself a publisher! (It did!) The second book I have completed two months ago, and its in the process of being read through by editors of a publishing house. And the third needs a lot of changes made to it, as I'm not satisfied with it at the present moment.....

    There are other stories I plan to write but would like to stay with the YA 12+ generation.

  9. What kind of story would you want to write next and for which age group?

  10. All my stories will deal with life and times in India, as I'm most familiar with this country, having lived here my entire life. We have such diversity here, nothing on earth can give an author such a massive choice of subjects, lifestyles, communities, religions, events, thought processes!

  11. Who is your favourite among the Indian authors writing children's literature?

  12. I used to read Manjula Padmanabhan, but of late prefer American and writers from the UK, of whom there are many. I do NOT much care for science fiction, or books on magic, magicians, etc.

  13. Could you please share your experience of the process of getting the written work published? How easy/difficult is this process. Which kind of books do you find missing in the children's category in India?

  14. My experience with getting my book published was long, and quite painful. Many many rejections, much editing, many more rejections, not enough email addresses to choose from, and many Publishers not finding YA lucrative enough to make one story go far!! Today's writers haven't much clue about either the market or the target they're writing for, and the usual money spinner seems to be illustrated books for the very young, so this age group is I feel totally neglected. We certainly need a larger number of YA authors here.

Thanks Leela !

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review : Out Of Place In Time And Space

Title : Out of Place in Time and Space

Author : Lamont Wood

Publisher : New Page Books

ISBN : 978-1-60163-178-7

'Out of Place in Time and Space' is a delightful read highlighting the things, incidents and situations from the past which resemble the ones that happened or were invented many years later. How is it possible to see things in the past that look similar to the things in the present? The picture of children holding toy helicopters, toy airplanes on the tombs, the presence of planetary objects in the tribal art, writer having written about the doomed gigantic ship getting into an accident with just a few lifeboats - eventually happening much later in Titanic , movie on the President creating an artificial war as a façade to distract the attention of the public away from his personal affair, the mention of Pacific Front of the World War II more than a decade before the war began, UFOs being depicted in the paintings of medieval period - are some of the examples brought into notice by Lamont Wood.

Wood offers a detailed reference list of such cases appropriately supported by illustrations from some very reliable sources like National Geographic and Scientific American. The facts of the knowledge from the past are thoroughly analyzed form logical angles and are presented in an easily readable fashion adequately stirring the curiosity of readers to know more as the book progresses.

The book does manage to initiate a few basic questions in the minds of the readers - Have we understood the time dimension completely? Is time a much more cryptic dimension than it seems to be? What else have we not understood completely ignoring it as just flight of imagination of a set of people in different times? These and some more will surely incite the curiosity of many readers.

A book, full of substance and evidences for the large array of observations that have been made throughout the book. The information packed book is not devoid of humour so it promises to give an enjoyable reading experience to the readers. This is definitely one of the books which offers 'something different' from the regular content.

The pictures and illustrations added to the text, bring out the point much more effectively.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review : A Waiting Wave

Title : A Waiting Wave

Author : Kulpreet Yadav

Pubisher : Cedar Books

A Waiting Wave is a love story of Harry and Kareena, who are confronted with a rough terrain in their married life not too long after they took their vows to be in the relationship. Harry decides to handle the situation by silently exiting from the scene for some time with an aim to introspect.

Most of the ingredients that are typically found in any melodramatic love saga find a place in the story - passionate love, another person vying for heroines attention, short-tempered husband, regular complaints of a working wife and jealous spouse. Tsunami - the natural disaster is also appended to the potpourri and the couple in question is caught completely unawares. But sometimes it does take a mightier jolt for mere mortals like us to realize the pettiness of issues in broader scheme of things.

But unfortunately none of these ingredients make the readers connect with the characters or feel for them the way any love story should.

An ordinary love story, very simplistically told, which moves at a constant pace without attempting to soar high anywhere or dipping down too low. Readers would not be able to take much from the story and the impact will end with the last page of the book. The detailed information about the Andaman and Nicobar islands and the native triabals is interesting and sounds very authentic, which shows the sufficient groundwork that the author must have done to write authoritatively about the same. In my opinion, the main story is not strong enough to hold the attention of the readers. On some occasions the side subplots gain more prominence in the absence of an engaging plot.

What is good about the book is that it is free of all sorts of mistakes - spelling, grammatical, typos so I would say the editing job is done well. But the weak plot can make the book go only this far. Read it once, if you must.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review : I Remember My Circus

Title : I Remember My Circus (Kindle Edition)

Author : Tom S. Figueiredo

Illustrator : Sidney Falcao

'I Remember My Circus' is a story of an ill-fated magical town carrying an open secret. Most families living in this town have one or the other member who turns into an animal. The story starts with a girl working in a circus whose special feat is that she transforms into a gorilla at specific time of the day but this particular day seems to be far from other regular days especially for the gorilla girl and for the people who have come to see this live transformation in the circus.

That particular night, the narrator who is the 10-year old boy experiences the magic of kindness and the wonders it can create. Soon after that the circus is wound up and every single trace of the circus is magically wiped out of the place. Incidentally the little boy gets to witness the secret of sudden appearance and vanishing of the circus which nobody else knew. And he decides to be a part of the circus by not sharing the secret.

The author Tom S. Figueired aptly brings out the imagination and inquisitiveness of a child's mind. The story is very sensitively and poignantly narrated. Great imagination, fresh idea and very creative execution. The illustrations done in water colours are simply gorgeous. However, I felt the appropriateness with the text is not maintained in the illustrations. The 10-year old boy is shown as a small toddler and pictures showing the mother carrying him in her arms look somewhat unrealistic.

Another important thing, the readers should not be misguided by the fact that since this is a picture book so is appropriate for very young children only. The little children will surely enjoy the colourful illustrations but the idea of the story is very mature and may get lost on them. So this book can be read and fully understood by anybody of 10+ years age.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Review : Death By China

Title : Death By China

Author : Peter Navarro and Greg Autry

Publisher : Prentice Hall

ISBN : 978-0-13-218023-8

'Death by China' focuses on how following a meticulously systematic approach, China is attempting to cripple the economy of America under the pretense of 'free trade'. And in this whole process the defense of the country is also getting compromised to a significant degree. The book exposes the stark reality behind the glittering exterior and offers an eye opener for all.

The authors Peter Navarro and Greg Autry talk about the multi-pronged attack adopted by China and its policies on every feasible front - be it currency manipulation, espionage, capturing diverse markets, destroying jobs or pumping poison in the name of medicines, food or drugs. Rules and regulations of free trade are openly violated, ethics are disregarded, principles are conveniently tweaked and surprisingly not much has been done to combat this trend so far. I found the second and third sections the most interesting parts of the book, in which China's gradual domination on resources of Earth and that of outer space are discussed. China has all sorts of weapons in its artillery to accomplish the task of treacherous onslaught master minded by the corrupt Chinese leaders. After having discussed the threats and warning signs that America is facing from the venomous dragon, the authors move on to suggest some clear and workable actions that the US could adopt to safeguard its interests.

The book is a very well written piece of writing, based on thorough research and detailed analysis. The chapters and sub topics are neatly organized in a logical fashion. True to its title 'Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action', the book does motivate the readers that something should be done sooner than later to eradicate the termite kind attack which is fast weakening the flourishing economic tree of the US.

However, on a couple of occasions in the narrative, the authors sound too opinionated and in order to accentuate the overall impact of the text they have not abstained from attempting to sensationalize the same. I feel the statistics and well researched piece of writing speak much louder than just the aggressive adjectives. The facts should always be presented in a completely matter-of-factly manner, keeping the personal opinions and views of the presenter out of the picture.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review : Picture Book Tree

I feel extremely happy to be sharing the wonderful endeavour of a mother with all the readers.

PictureBookTree is a tree that grows picture books and story books for children.

Stories about caring, sharing, love, and growing up. Like any tree, it loves to share its fruit, asking for very little in return. This site, which is started by a mother, shares beautiful life messages in the form of colorfully illustrated story books. Books that in a very subtle way lead you to appreciate and love this beautiful life, value relationships, respect nature and the world we live in. This site is a gift of a parent to all parents.

Pooja Sardana, the mother of this idea, wanted to make reading easy and accessible to all. She wanted the kids to read and enjoy as many books as they want without getting stuck with the price tag. "Money should be the last thing that should come as an obstacle in their growing up and experiencing life", she says. That's how this tree was borne. A tree which allows parents and children to climb up and read as many books as they wish to.

The site allows users to read, download, and print all the books for a subscription fee of only one dollar a year .

The site also has a Magic Box section where kids can enjoy short educational and funny videos, print out and paint coloring sheets from their favorite picture books or tease their brains with interesting memory puzzles! The site currently has 8 books, 5 more books are due for release by end of August. 15 books are in pre-production to be released by November. So there is a lot to look forward to. Magic Box was released this month and already hosts printables likes coloring sheets and Spot The Difference. Soon short videos, puzzles and other creative fodder for parents and children will be added. All of this comes for only one dollar a year .

PictureBookTree welcomes you all. Be part of the journey of a parent.

I Love You Mommy

A very reassuring story portraying a day from the lives of a mother and her little baby boy. The day

begins with mother waking the child up lovingly, followed by a series of activities that she does for him, which speak volumes of the affection, the warmth and the boundless love that is brimming in her heart for her child. The same feelings, though unspoken and
unheard, do reach out to the little heart in many ways.
They may not be acknowledged every single time but the child does know the presence of unconditional love in his life from a very close quarter and
attempts to reciprocate in his own innocent way.

This is the essence of the tenderly written story - 'I Love You Mommy'. It makes a big difference in building the confidence in the child when he/she is told over and over again - how dearly is he/she being loved.

A Day In The Park

Aman, a nature loving boy likes keeping his surroundings tidy, neat and clean. He is excited about a trip to the neighbourhood park with his mother and his dog friend - Lobo. But he gets disheartened by the apathy of people who come to the park to have some fun time. It feels like, they have such narrow vision that it is restricted to their personal enjoyment only even at the price of disfiguring and spoiling public property. But then he resolves something and starts a mission single handedly.

A wonderful way to convey an essential point to the children - no one is big or small when it comes to standing up for the right cause and even a small child can teach others how to be considerate and sensitive.

It shows how important it is to listen to the heart and follow it despite being the only one treading that path. If the actions are right, the confidence of doing the same enables the person to take on all the hurdles in the stride.

And sooner or later many others join the cause.

The Fish With A Golden Heart

If there is one star fish sharing a fish bowl with four ordinary looking goldfish, how would

the star fish feel - vain, conceited, extra-ordinary? And what about the goldfish, how would they feel - perhaps a little bad, especially when the star fish does not let any opportunity go, to bully the goldfish. But is there a way out of this vicious circle of hatred, revenge, bitterness? Perhaps there is one. There is always a path of forgiveness, which snaps everyone out of the negative feelings. It takes just a little effort from a person, but it gives immense pleasure to all. Such is the power of forgiveness.

'The Fish With A Golden Heart' is based on this aspect of life and how important it is to develop a vision

so that we are able to see the inner goodness of a person beyond the external cloak.

Mr. Might Meets His Hero

Having a super hero in a story is a sure way to enter a child's heart and this trick is used in the - 'Mr. Might Meets His Hero'. Mr. Right, the world's greatest superhero is very conceited because of his flying skills, his saving the world acumen and the reverence of people for him.

But one day he comes across a true super hero, Benji, but Benji is quite

unlike a regular super hero. He could not fly nor could he fight with the aliens and save the world. This little boy just knows very simple things - how to help elders, how to bring smiles to the faces, how to be compassionate and how to bring simple joys in the lives of others. In fact, he is just trying to practice the art of being a true human. Watching this hero very closely, Mr. Right learns many life lessons and realizes how ignorant he has been, completely engulfed in his own world of vanity and pride.

Miss Meow

Tim finds a purse lying on the grass while he is taking a walk one day. He wants to return it to

the rightful owner. He meets many animals as he goes along and keeps inquiring if the purse

belongs to any of them. It is fun to see where all these different animals are hidden and how they respond to Tim.

Children are introduced to the shelters, voices, food and movements of a variety of animals through this story. Knowledge imparted in fun way is always the best way to go about it.

Akayla and Woody

A very cheerful girl Akayla has a special bond with an extraordinary friend, an old tree Woody. They both have been taking good care of each other. They have shared wonderful times

together. This is one friend with whom Akayla has been sharing her secrets too. But one day, it looks like Woody's life is in danger and as expected from a true friend, Akayla stands up for her friend. But are her efforts enough to save her oldest friend?

How many of us are able to save our silent friends - plants and trees?

A great message illustrated beautifully by the paper and fabric cutouts, actually reinforcing the message of reusing the stuff and also

encouraging the kids to try making such collages.

Sharing Makes Me Happy

One day a little boy, while going to school, observes a family on the street and a little kid among them

looked very hungry. He cannot take that scene out of his mind till the time he decides to do something about it. Even a small gesture of sharing his lunch with that little kid, gives him immense pleasure and is appreciated by all.

Such stories teach the value of having compassion for people who are not as fortunate as us and how with a small effort from our side we could make a little change in their lives and make our world a better place to live.

A Walk With Grandma

A lovely story portraying a loving bond between Grandma Rose and little Ben. Ben decides to go on a walk with his grandma unperturbed by the fact that she could not walk and run fast with him. Ben just wants to enjoy the spring weather with his best friend - Grandma Rose. They meet many friendly creatures on their way and have a lot of fun. It is indeed a delightful day for both of them. Ben wants to keep walking further but

Grandma has had enough and can not walk any more, she wants to head back home. Does

Ben listen to her or does he continue walking? Grandma is sure to get a big surprise either way. You need to read to find out.

I especially liked the clever usage of words which go with the kind of plants

and animals they see and with the specific expressions. Will surely help in building the vocabulary of young children as they read along this interesting story.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review : The Secret of The Nagas

Title : The Secret Of The Nagas (Book II of Shiva Trilogy)

Author : Amish Tripathi

Publisher : Westland

ISBN : 978-93-80658-79-7

I guess all are wary of the sequels, the part II's, the Dwitiyas(seconds) and the following versions, for the simple reason (well supported by statistics)that usually the same seem like the diluted versions which let the expectations down, they even let the impressions of the first one fade away. So all these anticipations and apprehensions were there when I picked the second book of the 'Shiva Trilogy'(Book I - The Immortals of Meluha, reviewed here).

The initial one-third of the story did not stir much emotions inside me. Perhaps the expectations were too high. The story was going on pretty well, in fact, very fast paced but I was desperately missing the euphoria, the magic that I felt many times while reading 'The Immortals of Meluha'. Oh well, I thought, it is indeed not easy to replicate anything, then how could I expect the same magic getting replicated in the sequel too. But all my apprehensions and fears were put to rest the moment the identities of Naga queen and the Lord of the People are revealed. After that the story just soars high in the space, which Amish has made his readers used to.

Neelkanth's mission to find the evil and destroy it continues in the second book. He has to avenge the murder of his dear friend Brihaspathi and identify the mysterious Naga who is chasing Sati. Shiva's sojourn to find the answers to unanswered mysteries lead him and his entourage to many different places - Swadeepan, Kashi, Branga land and to the land of Nagas which has been very secretly guarded by the Naga Queen and the Lord of the People. Shiva gets to understand, experience and learn the fundamental duality of life, the inseparability of evil and good, the coexistence of masculine and feminine part in the universe, futility of preconceived notions, deception of first appearances, imperfections in perfection, scope of virtue in imperfection, significance and need of both evil and good, and much more.

Our hero, the Shiva in second book has matured into a much more assured person, having taken the role of being a saviour comfortably now, in comparison to the unsure rustic tribal Shiva who was introduced to us in the first book. The abuses coming out of his mouth are also contained to minimum.

However, I did not understand the significance of the word 'Nagas' for the people who are actually banished Suryavanshis or Chandravanshis born with physical deformities or abnormalities. They have their own kingdom Panchvati, which is a secret place in deep jungles.

I would say the way the second book ends is not like how the first ended in terms of level of curiosity the first managed to raise. People who read the first book, would surely want to read the second but not sure about the third. Personally, I would want to see how the saga ends because I usually pursue things till their logical conclusions. But there is no doubt about the fact that this journey has been very enriching and fulfilling for all the characters of the story, primarily Neelkantha and all the readers too.

I specifically liked the parts when Shiva is guided by the Vasudevs in a veiled manner. The cover pages of both the books are quite impressive too.

I must compliment the author for having weaved the philosophy of the evil and good so charmingly with the adventure and thrill part. The adventure gives pace to the story while the philosophy part brings the much needed pondering breaks, the opportunity to assimilate and absorb what has been going on in the story.

This story has deeply influenced and impressed me. The almighty seems to have become a little more approachable and accessible to me. I guess, it is all in our minds.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review : Destiny Vs. Choice

Title : Destiny Vs. Choice

Author : Marie D. Jones

Publisher : NewPage Books

ISBN : 978-1-60163-156-5

Right from the day a person develops the faculties to comprehend the meaning of life and the purpose of existence, the struggle between two contradictory claims begin in the mind - fate/destiny and choice/free will. Is everything hard coded in our make up or can we exercise some control over the choices that we believe to make and the paths we select?

In 'Destiny vs Choice', Marie D. Jones highlights the fundamental point that life is nothing but a sequence of decisions/choices and the decisions taken lead the individual to diverse circumstances offering yet another set of choices. The author brings in the spiritual, philosophical and scientific angles to look at the process of confronting decision points after decision points. She lays down very valid points and doubts on the table, for instance, if God has planned everything and if God is the perfect power, how could sin and evil be part of God's plan? If not, then is evil part of free will? Do fate and 'free will' work in mutually exclusive manner or do they have some common ground? What percentage of what we do or what happens come under the destiny part and what portion of it makes it to the 'free will'? The confusion keeps mounting with more and more parameters and factors thrown into the discussion. Do we lead a robot-like life where minute to minute details are set in stone, but then the whole existence seems really pointless. There has to be a kind of balance, a kind of correlation between Destiny and Choice, perhaps we do get to exercise our 'free will' but in the realms of broad rules of universe, which are there to avoid complete anarchy.

The author has taken into consideration different viewpoints and perspectives - from astrology, astronomy, various religions, DNA blueprint, quantum physics to after-death experiences, thereby making it a well researched guide on trying to fathom the meaning of each of these significant aspects in our life and how to use them to make the life more fulfilling and enriching. The impressive part about this book is that even the complex topics are very effectively weaved together in an extremely readable fashion. And also, the narrative is very beautifully peppered with the quotes of some notable personalities. A detailed section is focused on the great equalizer - the death and the after-life experiences, analyzing many issues under the topic.

The Appendix of the book is dedicated to some interesting tales, portraying how 'destiny' and 'free will' make their presence felt and how people find out the true destinations where they truly need to be, whether it is called the pull of destiny or that of Choice, which seems to matter much less at the end.

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