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Bookworm, the PYB

A royal affair: A new Ruskin Bond novella, Maharani, (Penguin Books India, Rs 350) is ruling the book racks.

H.H. is the spoilt, selfish, beautiful widow of the Maharajah of Mastipur. She lives with her dogs and her caretaker, Hans, in an enormous old house in Mussoorie, taking lovers and discarding them, drinking too much, and fending off her inheritance-hungry sons. Seasons come and go, hotels burn down, cinemas shut shop, and people leave the hill station never to return. But H.H. remains constant and indomitable.

Observing her antics, often with disapproval, is her old friend Ruskin, who can never quite cut himself off from her. “She’s one colourful character. She’s outspoken, independent, intelligent and a little intolerant of fools... like me!” laughed Ruskin Bond when Bookworm asked him about his Maharani.

Though a fictional character, H.H. is based on “several ranis, princesses and women of the Indian royal families” that Ruskin has met over the years. Now, it’s time for us to pay our respects to the redoubtable H.H.

Romancing the new year: With the new year just around the corner, are you wondering how your life and love life will be in 2013? Fret not.

Mills & Boon is all set for an Indian launch of their popular Dadhichi Toth horoscope books. Discover your Future with Horoscope — 2013 by the Australian oracle, astrologer and face reader will be available in a set of 12 books, one for each of the 12 star signs.

Published by Harlequin, each book is priced at Rs 125. The books focus on reading the nature of men, women and children, the compatibility levels in areas of love, friendship and workplace, plus advice on maintaining health and beauty as well as daily and monthly predictions for each star sign.

Law and behold: “I am a lawyer, and I am in prison. It’s a long story.”

Michael Connelly may be making a fine case for himself as a legal thriller writer with his Mickey Haller series but when it comes to the courtroom, John Grisham is a law unto himself. After scoring a home run with Calico Joe, Grisham is back to what he does best — knotting up his readers in courtroom dramas. His latest, The Racketeer (Hodder & Stoughton, Rs 350) opens with former attorney Malcolm Bannister behind bars and federal judge Raymond Fawcett dead. Despite their obvious occupational hazards, surprisingly only four federal judges have ever been murdered in the US (this is a work of fiction, do read the disclaimer). Judge Fawcett just became number five. Two bodies are found at the judge’s remote lakeside cabin — the judge and his young secretary. The highly secure safe is open and empty. Malcolm Bannister would love to tell the FBI what was there in the safe, but information as explosive as the key to Judge Fawcett’s death has to come for a price. A clever revenge scheme, a plot surrounding jailhouse crime and the looming question — who is the racketeer? Read and find out.

wordplay: If Hindi is the language you love, play on online. Delhi-based Peach Communications has made a Scrabble-like Hindi word game with adjustable difficulty levels available on the Internet at www.hindi.shabdkoshish.com. Once registered, a player has to construct as many dictionary words as possible within a given time to score points. The words have to be connected with each other and each letter, matra and half-consonant carries points.

There’s an English assist tool on the website for those who struggle with their Hindi a bit. Users can also blog on the website. Coming up soon is the Shabdkoshish Chunouti series, which will allow registered users from across the world to compete against one another in real time.

Delhi-based multiple media artist Ashim Ghosh, who first published Shabdkoshish, is working to make the game available in other south Asian languages, including Bengali.