Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Review: Secrets of Milan, Book Two of the NightFlyer Trilogy by Edale Lane

 My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While Florentina as the Night Flyer searches for a mysterious underworld organization that has attempted to murder the woman she loves, Maddie struggles to deal with the danger Florentina is courting. Her brother, Alessandro, has become the most prominent merchant of Milan, but the Night Flyer uncovers a secret so shocking it could destroy them all.
Secrets of Milan is the second book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy.

Picking from the previous book - Merchants of Milan [ book review post linked ] , the story starts with Maddie worrying about her relationship with the Night Flyer / Florentina. It was good to see her doubts about her new love considering she is a widow and worried because of her own sense of guilt. she starts distancing herself from Florentina till Alessandro makes her see the truth in a different light. The romance and the relationship between the two ladies from that point is beautifully handled and has all the traits of a mature equal partnership between the two ladies. 

The author does not lose focus of the main plot of the book which is to find who wants to kill Maddie and for what purpose, and the action scenes between the hired assassin and the Night Flyer are exciting to read. There is much improvement in the pace , the scene setting and the way the plot moves forward in this book. But what I loved reading more was the character development shown in other cast of the story -  the young boy who went to war front , the fallen merchant and his family , the city sergeant etc. Everyone adds a different dimension to the story and makes this such an engaging read. Maddie's kids interactions with Florentine are such a joy to read and even learn a bit from their lovely teacher about science, history and some art. 

We learn more about the Milan during this era and how war takes the attention away from things & ideas that might help humanity more. How it changes people and landscapes is easily visible through this story. 

There is a secret society , a cryptic diary , more history & scenes from the beautiful European cities, Leonardo Da vinci's inventions , action , romance and above all, the desire to make a difference to the world in whatever way one choses. 

I loved the second part more than the first and eagerly await the last installment.  

About the author:  Edale Lane is the author of an award-winning 2019 debut novel, Heart of Sherwood. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Vlad a Novel, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication in regard to research. She is a successful author who also currently drives a tractor-trailer across the United States. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie as the case may be) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Regional: Vijayanteyum Omanayudeyum Loka Sanchaarangal

Those who are living in Kochi/Ernakulam might have heard about this couple atleast once. They have been the subject of numerous newspaper articles and television shows. If I tell you that this book is about a Vijayan-Mohana couple who run the tea shop called ‘Balaji Tea Stall’, in Salim Rajan Road, Kathrukkadavu,Ernakulam, it might not ring a bell. But if I rephrase my statement a bit and emphasise again ‘this’ is ‘that couple’ who use the savings out of their earnings from their tea stall to fund for their world travel, I’m pretty sure that atleast some of you will recollect their story.’Vijayanteyum Mohanyudeyum Loka Yathrakal’, as the title suggests is an account of some of the travels done by this lovely couple.
         The book starts off depicting the childhood of Vijayan and how he was fond of travels right from his school days. He also recollects his love for movies and his spendthriftness during his early years. The turning point in Vijayan’s life as he himself has recalled in this book happens after the entry of Mohana into his life.The next few chapters are short descriptions about the various travels they have made till date.

          Coming to the positives, the book is highly readable and is totally unpretentious. There is no attempt to portray the couple as overtly virtuous or create an artificial halo around the couple.Vijayan and Omana have been honest enough to confess their limitations and the mistakes which they have made in life. So, when Vijayan says that he has been highly indisciplined till he met Omana or when she recalls about the bad experiences she had to face soon after her marriage, the reader can totally relate to it.The language is quite simple and conversational and the narrative smooth and crisp.
The production quality of the book(Vee cee Books Kochi and Anaswara Offset Printers,Ernakulam) is top notch and the beautiful pictures which have been included in the book also enhance the reading experience.
           On the downside, though this book belongs to the ‘travelogue’ genre, descriptions of places and the historical aspects behind  these places  hardly gets place in this book.Avid travel readers will find this book a tad disappointing.Instead, if you approach this book as memoirs of Vijayan and Omana and their life experiences, you can finish reading this one with a smile on your face.I'm giving this book a 3 out of 5.


Monday, June 15, 2020

#BookReview: The Jansson Tapes by Colin Garrow

The Jansson Tapes
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Amateur

When a familiar leggy blonde slides onto the back seat of his cab with the offer of work, taxi-driver, and amateur sleuth Terry Bell isn’t keen. However, compared to the tedium of driving a cab all day, the lure of another mystery is too strong to resist, and Terry agrees to help. Tracking down a missing writer and his tape recorder sounds simple enough, but following the clues to a remote village, the case takes a dangerous turn when the man turns up dead. After the police take over, Terry and his sidekick Carol return home to find their flat ransacked—and that’s not the only surprise.

Set in England,The Jansson Tapes is book #3 in the Terry Bell Mystery series but can be easily read as a stand-alone book, like I did.

The Jansson tape is a quick good-feel read for a weekend afternoon. It does not waste time setting up the plot and introducing the reader to the characters. The central character is Terry - the smart & witty amateur sleuth who also drives the taxi when he does not have a paying job to investigate. His girlfriend & sidekick Carol is not only intelligent but also very supportive of his work, even though she has to face near-death experiences in the past. Then there is the caravan owner Sheila and her employee Ralph who is friends with both Terry & Carol. These characters are common from the previous books so if you can start from the first, you will have more background of the cast.

The case starts quite simple - a writer has gone missing along with his tapes & notes for the book he is writing. Terry & Carol manage to gather some clues and it leads them to the dead body of the writer. They report the dead body to Inspector Charis Brown who is not impressed at all to see Terry involved in another murder case of hers. The story moves quite fast in each chapter but the writing never loses its humor and clarity. The action is easy to follow and keep one hooked to the story. The characters are all lovable, regular folks who never lose their head in any situation. I love one of the pizza dinner scenes a lot in this book between Terry & Carol. That made me spare a quick laugh. 

Where the book lacks a little is giving more details about the characters and the plot. I would have liked to know more about the dead writer and his book and the conclusion for publishing his work in the end. The book is good for beginners to enjoy a quick mystery but others might need a little more layers.

Book Links: Amazon US | Goodreads

About the Author: Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland and has worked in a plethora of professions including taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate. Colin has published three stage plays, six adventures for middle grade readers, two books of short stories, the Watson Letters series and the Terry Bell Mysteries.

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Sunday, June 14, 2020

QBR(Regional): Double Bell by Harris Nenmeni


                                                        95 + pages
                                                       Green Books
                                                       Originally Published in 2020
                                                       RT Rating: 3.2/5

'Double Bell' by Harris Nemeni is a highly enjoyable read depicting the short incidents encountered by the author during his stint with K.S.R.T.C (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) The Verdict:This one is a small, enjoyable read featuring real life incidents.
Synopsis: There won't be a single Malayalee who hasn't travelled in 'aanavandi' atleast once in his life time. Many of us have fond memories/experiences of our travel in a K.S.R.T.C bus. But have you ever thought how the life of a 'Aanavandi' conductor would be?If you haven't , this exactly is the book for you.

The Good:the writing which is honest and believable, un-pretentious writing.

The Bad:nothing really!
RecommendationsBuy it!


Friday, June 12, 2020

#BookReview: A Barren Heart by Shilpa Suraj

A Barren Heart A Barren Heart by Shilpa Suraj
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aman and Rhea seem to have the perfect marriage. They are madly in love - with each other, with their own careers and the home and life they are building in a quiet Mumbai suburb.

What could possibly be lacking in their picture-perfect marriage? A baby. Like most women, thirty-plus Rhea Chakraborty wants to hold her own flesh and blood in her arms. And Aman too wants the same. Or does he? 

After another unexplained miscarriage that takes a severe emotional, physical, and psychological toll on them, Aman isn't sure if having a baby will complete them or destroy them.

Last month I read Shilpa Suraj's book - Love, Marriage & other disasters. What I loved in the book was how she had written a very heartfelt , simple yet much relevant story of characters that readers would relate to easily. So, when I was offered a chance to review her new work, I was very excited to see how she presented this story. Glad to mention that she did not disappoint with Barren Heart.

Barren Heart revolves around various stages/struggles women face while trying to get pregnant. What feels like a natural process, is too hard for some of the women and each one has her own "family planning" story. Some of the plot lines & conversations in the book felt very real and I could recall some friends sharing similar stories with me or their girlfriends. The pain, the confusion, the reactions of friends, and family were portrayed well and I felt a lot of empathy for Rhea. Both Rhea & Aman are successful, independent and loving persons who are pillars to each other. While Rhea has her own family drama, Aman's childhood wasn't good. Which binds them together but also makes them lonely without each other.

Sometimes, I felt that she & Aman took some of the arguments too seriously. Some of the fights and the eventual making up scenes felt repetitive and not too impactful to the rest of the story. Rhea's issues with her family were mostly unresolved which did not make much difference but I was left wondering still. Nevertheless, Reading this book felt like listening to my own heart's voices at times .. This is a beautiful story of a marriage that survives being hurt, the fights & differences between the couple. It is a happy ever after ending but with a very realistic picture that all marriages go through highs & lows and some low are literally rock bottom for one or both parties. How you build yourself from those moments is what matters in the long run.

This is a well narrated story that has roots in modern lifestyle , characters who you get attached to and a satisfying end.

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

#BookReview : Every Reason We Shouldn't (Every Reason We Shouldn't #1) by Sara Fujimura

Genre: Romance, Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Fiction, Teen, Cultural
Rating : 3.5 / 5

: Contains family expectations, delightful banter, great romantic tension, skating (all kinds!), Korean pastries,and all the feels.

Fifteen year old, biracial figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s Olympic dreams have ended. She's bitter, but enjoying life as a regular teenager instead of an athlete... until Jonah Choi starts training at her family's struggling rink. Jonah's driven, talented, going for the Olympics in speed skating, completely annoying... and totally gorgeous. Between teasing Jonah, helping her best friend try out for roller derby,figuring out life as a normal teen and keeping the family business running, Olivia's got her hands full. But will rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?

I recently watched a show with Ice sports as backdrop so I was very interested to read this book. When I started reading Every reason We shouldn't , It took me about one third of the book to get hooked to the story. It was not because the story wasn't interesting. I did love all the practice sessions and the match scenes. They are written beautifully and very engaging for any reader to follow through the routine even if you have no idea of the terms of the sports. I liked to read the story of teenagers who are practicing their asses off to reach their goals and it is not a rosy picture at all. I appreciated that the author kept so many sequences and plot close to real for these kids - the expectations , the difference in normal life, the pain and the disappointments are as important to know as the joys of winning.

My favorite character in the book is Mack, who makes a mistake in her teenage years but has never given up on herself. She works hard , plays harder and is a amazing friend to Olivia in every way. She has her own problems to solve with the father of her little girl but she never once blames anyone for her situation and is the smartest , kindest and most inspiring person in the whole story.

Jonah's friendship with Olivia and the romance that follows is sweet and very fun read. It has all the sparks , the charms and butterflies in stomach kind of cuteness when they are together. It was good to see that side of both of them and that kept me going on with the story.

But when we you start digging into the smaller details , the book also disappointed me. My biggest issue was with Olivia being very inconsistent in her behave and she was mostly very bitter and stubborn for her own good. I could understand her frustrations most of the time but the way she looked down upon other people around her was not fair either. I felt her bitterness was more from being jealous than being upset about where she was at that given point and it was not anyone's fault.
She herself realizes that her last performance with her best friend Stuart was not at all up to the mark and it deserved the criticism it got. She has all the chances to improve but it keeps getting sidelined by her family & personal drama. Together Jonah & Olivia are not good to other kids in her school while their friends are quite nice and appreciative of their achievements. Stuart was supposed to be the best friend / brother to Olivia but he was not at all considerate or respectful to Olivia most times.

The book definitely could have been better but it was still a decent read for weekend if you want to read of sports related YA.

GR | Amazon | Kobo | Google books

SARA FUJIMURA is an award-winning young adult author and creative writing teacher. She is the American half of her Japanese- American family, and has written about Japanese culture and raising bicultural children for such magazines as Appleseeds, Learning Through History, East West, and Mothering, as well as travel-related articles for To Japan With Love.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Malayalam Crime Thriller: Pradhamadrishtya (Primafacie)

'Pradhamadrishtya' is a malayalam Crime Thriller by Nikhilesh Menon. It tries to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of Riya Susan and her husband.

If You wish to buy the book, order here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Review: Kingdom Above the Cloud by Maggie Platt

What if the nine Fruit of the Spirit and the Seven Deadly Sins were locked in a battle for control? 

Abandoned as infants, Tovi and her twin brother were raised by an eclectic tribe of warm, kind people in a treehouse village in the valley. After her brother’s sudden disappearance Tovi questions her life and her faith in an invisible King. Ignoring her best friend Silas’ advice, she decides to search for her brother in the kingdom on top of the mountain. 

Above the cloud, the Council of Masters receive their orders. Tovi and her brother are the objectives. King Damien has a plan and Tovi is the key. The Council of Masters want her, but will she remain unscathed? Amidst the glamour of the kingdom above the cloud Tovi is torn between her own dark desires and unanswered questions.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Allegory 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: Kingdom above the cloud is categorized as a Christian fiction story but I did not feel it to have any influence on my reading experience. Perhaps the story has some references to old tales from the Bible but as a non-christian reader, I read this book as a fantasy fiction and I enjoyed it. 

The story starts with King Damien, ruling the kingdom from above the clouds (Mount Damien), trying to avoid a prophecy of his downfall be seeking a person from the world below the cloud (Adia) . His intention is to find his mentor turned enemy Adwin who is worshipped as a God in Adia and in the lower ring of Mount Damien too. There are old legends, stories, and rumors about Adwin but no one seems to know the true person or reasons for his disappearance from Mount Damien. There are places where you can draw the parallels between Adwin & God(s) you believe in, irrespective of your religion. This flexibility to interpret the story and to be able to like it was one of the unique things about this book.

The story pushes forward as we follow a lost young woman Tovi who has felt a lot of unhappiness in life and with no one to lean on, she has a lot of resentment towards Adwin. It does not help that in her stubbornness and naivety, she does not recognize the love and care she had received in Adia after being abandoned by her parents along with her twin brother. When she falls for the trap set by King Damien's council of masters and leaves Adia for seeking answers from Mount Damien, she will have to learn on her own whether to fall for the stories & lessons imparted to her by Damien or to seek strength from the stories taught to her by her adoptive parents and best friend. 

As pieces start falling in place for the prophecy to come true and King Damien trying to change it , we see changes in people's loyalty and how it is reflected in their appearance and thoughts. 

The world-building , the writing, the characters, and the various mysteries are all done beautifully in the book. I was able to finish the book in less than a day as the story was too intriguing from the beginning. I could relate to the thoughts on faith, pain & suffering and in unconditional love as it aligns with my personal beliefs but it is not too hard to ignore that and read it as a normal fiction. I am eagerly looking forward to meeting Tovi & Adwin again in next book.  

Book Links: GR | Amazon | Google Books

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

#BookReview: Ground Rules by Richard Whittle

Ground Rules Ground Rules by Richard Whittle
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Called out one night in the hope that she can identify the body of a man found in a field, Edinburgh forensic geologist Jessica Spargo (Jez) inadvertently becomes involved in the investigation of a university lecturer's murder. The investigating officer, Tom Curtis, hands her a small glass vial and asks her to analyze its contents. The results confound everyone.

An object discovered beneath a construction site shocks everyone, including the police. Employed by the firm's owner to attempt to solve the mystery, Jez falls foul of an uncooperative site manager. Unruffled, she perseveres. To Jez's dismay, there are more deaths. As she says to Curtis, 'I don't do bodies. I'm a geologist, I look at rocks. If I'd wanted to look at bits of the body I would have become a surgeon or a pathologist.' Yet she keeps digging ...

Review: One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was that the subject matter was quite intriguing and very unique. The book shows author's knowledge of the same quite clearly. I had some trouble getting into the story in the beginning when we have a lot of geological information is discussed by the characters. It can make one think that the story might be too detail-oriented to follow easily. Please do not let go of the story so soon because things do get smoother and the characters take over the plot to make it more engaging. There are different kinds of investigation going on within the story - police procedure, geological explorations, adventures based on old maps and such. 

I also struggled a little with very little background on Jez & Curtis. In fact, theirs was quite a hot & cold sort of relationship which I found a little inconsistent. From this book I wished I would have liked a little more light on the first case where they met because of Jez's father [ which I realized is a prior book by the author and I am equally intrigued to read it now ]

But once I had crossed the part where both the cases are revealed and Jez is involved, I followed her investigation and her questions closely. It was fascinating to know that ground we see or walk on daily has so much going on below it and how it was like an integral character to the storyline. Jez might appear as a little arrogant but hats off to her for having the patience to deal with all the men around her with their personal bias and attitudes. She is curious, hard-working, respectful of others but she also very humane in showing her weakness when she refuses to handle bones and such stuff or think of dead bodies in any situation. This made me bond with her more because none of it stops her sense of justice and fighting for the victim. She is not perfect but is a damn admirable female lead and I would like to read more of her series.

I liked all the secondary characters in the book but I totally loved Jez's old colleague Andy. I wish he appears more in other books of Jez & Curtis and plays a bigger role in the investigation with his internet friends. Also, can we please have more of Cavendish working with Jez than Curtis. Cavendish sounded a fun police guy from this book. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read for me as an introduction to Jez's world. 

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

#BookReview : The Colossus of Roads by Christina Uss

Eleven-year-old Rick Rusek is determined to improve the traffic conditions in Los Angeles- his parent's failing delivery catering service, Smotch, depends on it. 

 "Traffic is a puzzle with one correct solution. And I've got to solve it!"

Rick has been studying maps and traffic patterns for years and devises solutions to improve Los Angeles' notoriously terrible traffic that he calls his Snarl Solutions. He has big ideas, but not enough resources-- until his artistic friend, Mila brings him to a Girl Scout meeting.

The scouts paint recycled traffic signs with their own designs. The signs will be hung all over Los Angeles to beautify the city with art. But Rick, The Colossus of Roads, has ulterior motives ..


Review: Once in a  while it is so refreshing to look at the world from the eyes of children who not only have amazing ideas but also the conviction to act on them, no matter how tough the task looks. 

Rick's passion to study traffic patterns, maps, and to plot solutions to make traffic system better for everyone is infectious and impressive. You feel as passionate about something that you never paid attention to before perhaps. And suddenly you look at this as a puzzle and want to figure out it along with Rick. It also made me appreciate the fact that different people have a different way to look at things and it does not have to do anything with one's age. Every person needs to be respected and heard for the good that they can bring to this world.

Though initially, it felt like Rick is too obsessed with improving the traffic that he does not look at others around him. But, he turns out to be a really good friend and a boy with a real golden heart. He is shy and troubled by a stomach that can not survive long car rides but it also acts as his voice of reason, motivation, and caution combined. It was too hilarious to read those conversations and to imagine Rick's plight every time he thought of a car ride. 

the painting project by the Girls scout was interesting for me and appealed to me more because I like art & craft as a hobby at times. It was an important part of Rick's plan but it was also good to see him have fun in his own way there. 

The book also showcases the whole community as an entity and how people come together in times of crisis even though their individual interests might have put them on opposite sides earlier. And such cute groups that too. 

I so loved reading the Middle-Grade book and it was the perfect read to brighten my weekend. I would recommend it for both kids and adults alike. 

Book Links : GR | Amazon | Google books | iTunes  | Kobo

About the author: Christina Uss has ridden her bicycle across the United States both lengthwise and widthwise, and has worked as an adventure tour guide in fifteen states, leading cyclists of all ages through various mountains’ majesty and all kinds of fruited plains. Even more than pedaling across state lines, Christina loves books, especially ones that remind us all that the world is wonderful, weird place. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her family and will always wave hello if she sees you out riding.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Review: Love, Marriage, and Other Disasters by Shilpa Suraj

Love, Marriage, and Other Disasters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alisha Rana is not your typical single desi girl. For one, she is on the wrong side of 30. For another, she is divorced. Alisha doesn’t want much. But what she does want is that elusive thing all women search for – A man who gets her…but a man who gets her hot! She calls it “feeling the squiggle.”

Enter Dr. Vivaan Kapoor, cute, hot, squiggle-worthy. The younger brother of her cousin's prospective groom, he’s got the squiggle factor in spades. The only catch? He's never been married and is years younger than Alisha. Basically, completely off-limits.

The story starts with a date going very wrong and I immediately felt a kinship with Alisha who still managed to keep her sense of humor intact, even if it borders on sarcasm. But to be fair, the world deserves it most times. Her relationship with her best friend, her colleagues, and even with the girl who is so mean to her, all reflect her good nature and sensibility. She has an excellent rapport with her parents and relatives too and maybe that is why I also understood her doubts about the one guy who makes her feel special but in her head, he is totally off-limits. 

Vivaan is an early-achiever, kind, fun, and charming person who falls in love with Alisha from the first time he sees her. It is really bittersweet to see him try to woo Alisha every possible way and still be rejected only because Alisha has convinced herself that Vivaan is not the right person to marry even if he is the one guy who makes her "feel the squiggle".

Love, Marriage, and other disasters is a very realistic and appropriate story of love & marriage as perceived through society's glasses and how it shapes people's choices. It is a story of how past relations can make us unsure of our decisions in the future for a long time but accepting and acknowledging the same is the first step to be free. There are lot of small scenes in the story which are very commonly seen and heard in real life and they drive the story forward beautifully. 

I really liked this story and would love to read more about one of the characters in the book that plays a very pivotal role in cementing the love story of Alisha & Vivaan. 

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Review: Secrets of Milan, Book Two of the NightFlyer Trilogy by Edale Lane

 My rating: 4 of 5 stars While Florentina as the Night Flyer searches for a mysterious underworld organization that has atte...