Ashok Banker

#CoverReveal AWAKEN by Ashok Banker

1:38:00 AM

THE SHAKTI TRILOGY BOOK I



Gods of war was the first book I read by Ashok Banker. That time I was not even aware of the fantasy / mythology genre. I loved the boom a lot and since ,I have not missed any of the paperback that came out. I also have the subscription tonsite that am yet to use ( Must check if it's still working)


The Haters are coming to destroy all life on Earth. It is not a question of if, but when. 

The Brahmaand has already rung the warning bell and the awakening of the Preservers has begun.



First in the thrilling Shakti Trilogy set in contemporary India, Ashok Banker’s action-packed and brilliantly imagined Awaken introduces our unlikely heroes who must discover and harness their superpowers before they can protect and preserve the Earth from the wrath of a menacing alien invasion.

Ashok Banker is the internationally acclaimed author of over sixty published books which have sold over three million copies in twenty-one languages and sixty-one countries. He has been credited as the pioneer of Indian crime fiction in English and with launching the genre of mythological retellings, India’s biggest-selling publishing category.

Awaken is the first book in the Shakti Trilogy.  The Shakti Trilogy continues with Book II ASSEMBLE (November 2017) and Book III ARISE (January 2018).


  Pre-order your copy here 

releasedayblitz

Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer #ReleaseDayBlitz #Exceprt

3:34:00 PM




Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita
Immortalised in the hymns of the Rig Veda
But largely forgotten to the memory of India
Is the Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala

Brought up in the pristine forest school of Naimisha, Avishi reaches the republic of Ashtagani in search of her destiny. When Khela, the oppressive King of the neighbouring Vrishabhavati begins to overwhelm and invade Ashtagani, Avishi rises to protect her settlement. But peril pursues her everywhere.
Separated from her love, her settlement broken, with a brutal injury needing amputation of her leg, can Avishi overcome Khela?


Read an Excerpt

“I am the Queen! This will be my throne!” The seven-year-old chirped leaping from the middle of the porch towards the broken mortar which served as a mock throne. “You will be my guard!”
“Guard?” the man pondered scratching his unkempt beard. 
“No.” He shook his head and smiled seeing her indignant eyes. “I will be the Queen’s elephant.” He beamed.
Sukratu stepped out of the house to see his daughter in action, perching herself on the tramp Loha’s back, pretending in all earnestness that he was her elephant. He smiled and was about to set out for his duty as the night guard of the King. A sudden lightning appeared in the eastern skies. Sukratu had barely walked a few paces when a deafening thunder made him instinctively turn towards home. He heaved a sigh, finding Loha shielding the girl as if he would, his own child. 
“Father, don’t go.” The girl pleaded. 
Sukratu smiled and shifted his gaze towards the sky. He saw dark clouds loom over the city. The monsoon winds had started to make their presence felt. He had to reach the palace soon. “Isn’t my little Queen brave?” He called out. 
The girl nodded. He saw the fear fade. From her eyes. From her heart. She knew she was the queen! Pride filled his heart. His mind ached to stay home but duty beckoned. Tearing his gaze away from the one he treasured the most in his life, braving the drizzle that would soon turn into a storm, he unwillingly walked towards the King’s residence. Sukratu’s house was in the third ring of the concentric structure of Vrishabhavati. In the centre, was the structure, that served as the residence of the king and as the centre of all trade activity of the city. Here no wealth or goods could change hands without the king’s knowledge and approval. The residences of the noblemen formed the two rings around it. The guards and soldiers forming the outermost circle with the citizens living around them. 
As per the protocol, Sukratu approached General Ugra’s residence quite ahead of his reporting time— an hour before the moonrise. He walked into the empty courtyard. But the rain made it impossible for him to stand there any longer. He knocked at the giant wooden door fervently. The doors creaked as a strange woman clad in a dark indigo garment opened them and glared at him with a frown on her forehead. 
General Ugra, Sukratu knew was never faithful to one woman. His superior’s romantic exploits were not his concern either. But something about the woman at the door disconcerted him. “Please let General Ugra know that…”
“He has already left for the palace!” The woman frowned before attempting to shut the door. 
“What? How ca…” Sukratu’s words hung in air as the door slammed on his face and the woman disappeared from his line of vision all of a sudden. Something did not feel right. He knocked at the door again. Firmly this time, as though seeking answers. Any change in the reporting time would have been announced the day before and he remembered that nothing of the sort had happened. His knocks went unanswered. Frowning and muttering under his breath, Sukratu hurried towards an empty cowshed three houses away from Ugra’s place hoping to catch his companions who he knew would be equally surprised. 
The first to arrive was Khela, the eighteen-year-old guard, holding a metal shield above his head. The newest addition to the King’s guard, Khela was related to General Ugra and Sukratu felt that his position in the King’s guard was largely a result of undue favours that Ugra showered upon an otherwise impudent boy. 
“Sukratu! By the great Varuna, I should have come to you earlier!” Khela hurried towards him. Pausing for breath, he added. “Our platoon has been given a relief tonight! It was a sudden decision and I personally informed all the others.”
“Relief for tonight? That happens only when…”
“Our guarding hours change from night to day!” Khela completed in a hurry. “Now, come with me.” He turned towards the western direction and the javelin he held started to sway dangerously and came close to grazing Sukratu’s arm. 
The older guard’s instincts made him dodge the cut. “Where?” Sukratu hissed, visibly annoyed, first with the fact that he was kept in dark about the change in guarding hours and then about Khela’s irreverent behaviour. “And watch who your weapon hurts, boy.”
Khela shrugged and changed the position of his weapon. “We are now going to the place.” He winked, stretching his hand in the direction. “Follow me, this is the only night we get to have some fun.”
Sukratu did not move. The place he knew implied the tavern where wine was served. “We cannot drink tonight, Khela. When do we have to report tomorrow? By sunrise?”
“You ask too many questions. The rest of us are there too!”
“That does not answer my question.” 
“Well, I don’t know, and I don’t care to. The palace is paying for the wine. Are you coming or not?” 
The last sentence sounded more like a threat than an invite. Sukratu had all the mind to give the youth a piece of his mind and storm back home. His daughter would be overjoyed to see him before she went to sleep. It gnawed at Sukratu’s heart every day to leave her under the care of Loha— the tramp who had begged him for shelter about six months ago and then became a part of his life. The girl liked him instantly and had begged Sukratu to let Loha live with them and he, despite his misgivings about the tramp’s origins and his unkempt appearance, could not refuse his only daughter. Over time, Sukratu felt grateful for Loha’s company. Now his daughter did not have to be all by herself every night. The guard’s home would have been unguarded if not for that stranger. Sukratu brushed aside these thoughts and had almost decided to go home when the thought of meeting other senior guards and clarifying the confusion struck him. He followed Khela’s lead, making no attempt to hide his displeasure. 
When they reached the tavern, Sukratu to his dismay, found many of his brothers in arms deeply drunk. “When did they reach here and when did they…”
“Quite some time before. I just forgot to tell you in advance!”
Sukratu’s eyes scrutinized the men and women of the tavern who were serving wine to the guards. There were no other citizens or travellers in the tavern. 
“Just for us, the whole night!” Khela said as if reading his thoughts, bringing him an earthen goblet. 
The older guard accepted the goblet taking his first sip with a sense of foreboding. 
“Where were you all the time, old friend?” The voice belonged to Tunga one of the senior guards in the platoon. 
The grin on his friend’s face brought a smile to Sukratu’s lips. “Tunga, what is this about the sudden change in our guarding hours?” 
“By the great Varuna!” Sukratu exclaimed aloud and rushed out, pushing the woman who tried to stop him away. 
He raced to the King’s residence, as fast as his legs could carry him. The huge wooden gates of the structure were closed and secured from inside. The rain lashed drowning his cries. Misgivings regarding the King’s welfare made him shudder. He had to meet General Ugra. Something told him that the General had his own reasons to send the whole platoon of guards to enjoy a drunk night. He was a guard who had sworn to protect the King with his life. The general owed him an answer. Sukratu rushed to General Ugra’s house determined to confront him. 
That, Sukratu realized was the biggest mistake of his life. 
At the gates of the general’s residence he saw a familiar figure hurrying out of his house, a heavy bundle on his shoulders. “General Ugra!” he called out, feeling relieved. 
The figure started, and the bundle fell to the ground. Sukratu came to a sudden halt as he realized it wasn’t a bundle after all, but a blood-drenched corpse. A stroke of lightning from the sky revealed the face and the very familiar greying curls. Sukratu froze for a long moment before he could speak.
 “K... King...”
“Finish him!” The General shout behind him. 
Before he turned around, Sukratu felt the cold metal tear into his back. Lightning struck revealing the contours of the person. Khela! The javelin stabbed him again. Thunder drowned his screams. Falling to the ground with the weapon still stuck to his back, Sukratu lifted his sword and managed to slash Khela’s palm though the latter, unlike him was vigilant and alert. Crawling away from the menacing duo, knowing very well that he could not last more than a few moments, Sukratu’s thoughts, went to his innocent daughter. She would now languish as an orphan remaining in dark about the monsters who killed her father. Or would they kill her too?
Sukratu would never know. 


About the Author:
Saiswaroopa is an IITian and a former investment analyst turned author. Her keen interest in ancient Indian history, literature and culture made her take to writing. Her debut novel Abhaya, set in the times of Mahabharata was published in 2015. Avishi, her second novel set in Vedic India explores the legend of India’s first mentioned female warrior queen Vishpala.
She holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She is also trained in Carnatic Classical music and has won a state level gold medal from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. 





Fiction

The Sacred Sword by Hindol Sengupta

12:32:00 AM



This is the second book of Hindol Sengupta that I read and he is becoming a name to recommend for all mythology lovers.

This story is of course a fictionalized version of the last guru of Sikhs,Guru Govind Singh but it is a remarkably inspiring and awe worthy account. His life has great many lessons to learn from and more than that ,the conviction he showed in uniting the clan and fighting the Mughal on behalf of all is a story I was unaware of.

Hindol has beautifully added the poetry - Punjabi and Englisher both into this narrative . It also helps that Sikhism and the beginning of the khalsa was and has never been a fight for religious supremacy but of freedom from one such dular who wanted to convert all to his religion.

This book is a good way to know our traditions , the heroes and the sacrifice so many made to keep us a free community centuries ago. It is time to revive those lessons and this book does that job well. Even treating as fiction, the story hooks you right from the start.

Quite enjoyable read with a few unnecessary scenes probably.

My rating : 4/5



Anthology

Love,Murder & Mayhem

4:34:00 PM

- Cosmic tales of the heart gone deadly wrong
I have had very rigid mindset about sci-fic and have avoided it mostly. Perhaps over the years , we have crossed a lot of boundaries that were once considered fictional. This book came at such a tone when I was willing to try new genre and ideas. Even without that , I suppose I would have loved this book.

The stories are not just about aliens or machines but about superheros , the other early species , the humans and the feelings that all these share. There are tales of co-existence , of battles , of covert operations , gossip magazines and the extra ordinary plot twists. My favorite story is about an old robot that surrenders herself when her master's son does in an accident. Another story I enjoyed a lot is of a superhero mom and her husband trying to keep her work a secret while managing 3 kids. There is a certain relatable touch to all the stories -  the human touch and the accidental hum like emotional reactions.

This book was a lovely ride. And the one that totally broke my break from reading. Do try this one.

My rating : 4/5

Anthology

The Garden of Love, edited by Anuj Kumar

11:01:00 PM


They say any person who has fallen in love, and felt its joys and its pangs, will turn into a poet. Not all poems need to be written though. This collection has 40 poems under the umbrella of love and its various shades. These 40 poems come from the pen of 4 poets as well, so they add their own hues to the poems.

How each reader reads and interprets poetry is different. Some might see depth in simplicity, some will see simplicity in depth. It's quite difficult to review poetry for this reason. If I were to pick up a few poems as favorite from this collection, it would be these...

Of Anuj Kumar's ten poems, I liked Jar of Hearts the best. The poem has the emotion of heartbreak penned down nicely. It's something that many would be able to relate to, I feel, even if the he and she in the poem were interchanged.

The poem titled Yes, I Will is my favorite from the poems penned by Maliny Mohan. The rhyme doesn't seem forced and the flow from line to line is beautiful, just like the happy emotions of love, one that seems forever, that that poem talks of.

Akash Deep Gupta's verses are longer than that of the other three poets. Yet the poem I like the best from his 10 verses would probably be his shortest. One Day portrays a love that remains the same no matter what changes. I liked that portrayal.

From Abhijeet Singh Yadav's poems, perhaps the one I remember is The Text. I leave you to read it interpret, but I thought it could be interpreted at least a couple of different ways.

I like the concept of the book. Love is an emotion that has both a good side and a bad one. And to split the book into poems that relate to both was quite nice. There are some things that didn't work from my perspective. The first is that there were missing letters from the poem titles. Perhaps I got a bad print, I'm not sure. Second, there wasn't a demarcation between the sections of each poet, so I didn't whose poem I was reading. Thirdly, some of the poems, the rhyme felt forced, or the words out of place. Apart from a few poems, I don't think there were poems that wowed me.

I liked the title of the book, and the cover art that went with that title well. And there were definitely few poems that I liked a lot. Like I said earlier, each reader interprets poetry differently, so I do feel the collection would appeal to other readers more than it did to me.


CreateSpace

A Perfect Murder and Other Stories, by S. R. Nair

11:16:00 PM



There’s a charm to short stories that novels may not always have. It expresses a tale in very few words, and to make sure no threads are left hanging is a challenge. I took this set of short stories as I felt that the collection would give me a welcome change from reading novels. The title A Perfect Murder also appealed to the crime fiction lover in me.

Perhaps it was the title, but I began reading with the assumption that it was a collection of short stories in the crime fiction genre (which is rare). The book has fourteen short stories, but they don’t stick to a particular genre. From the fourteen, there were few favorites, and there were stories that didn’t appeal to me as much.

My favorite story from the collection was iPad. The story is perhaps the shortest one in the book, but it ranks right at the top because of the emotional ending. That the ending was also quite unexpected only added to the quality of the piece.

Salma’s Fate is another story I liked. There might be a Salma we know or whose story we may have read in the news. But this story, thankfully, has a positive twist to it instead of a negative one.

The story Visa for America felt familiar, like I had read it before somewhere. But it ended unlike how I thought it would. The love story still had a chance for a happy ending, and I was thankful for that.

Other stories that I liked were The Soothsayer, The Grandson, and Seema.

The stories not only cover a variety of genres, but also many themes that are quite common to see. There’s a mother-in-law who wants a grandson, and doesn’t accept the granddaughter though she had daughters of her own too. There’s a man who divorces his wife over the phone because she went against his father. There’s a lovelorn man who still wants to be with the old “crush” even though he’s married. These are characters that seem familiar or real. The author puts each story across quite well.

I like stories that leave something to the imagination. But most of the stories here had an enormous amount of detail. Though that helped to bring the scene to life, it didn’t quite manage to engage me as a reader. The title story, I felt, was a bit too long (though a perfect murder would need planning, I suppose). There aren’t many twists either. You know what might happen, and more often than not, that happens.

I’d read the collection to enjoy some simple, almost realistic stories. It’s a one-time read, but not a quick read. I took longer than I thought I would to finish it. 

I thank the author for sending me a copy to peruse and review.

Aditya Iyenger

Palace of Assassins by Aditya Iyengar

12:54:00 AM

As Ashwatthama, the lone survivor of the Kaurava camp, slowly regains consciousness, he realizes, to his horror, that he has been condemned to a life of immortality and leprosy by Krishna, the mastermind behind his opponents’ victory. Burning with hatred for the Pandavas for killing his friend Duryodhana, and stricken
with anger at his own fate, he vows to seek revenge.

When he hears of an infallible gemstone that promises to restore his mortality and cure his leprosy – and allows him to exact vengeance – he is determined to go to any length to acquire it. But he finds himself facing an impossible choice, for his quest could result in the death of the woman he loves.



I had read and reviews Aditya's first book The thirteenth day and I had mentioned that this guy has a knack of spinning very realistic accounts from the mythologies. He has done the same with Ashwatthama this time. The book starts from the day after the war has ended  , the curse placed has taken effect and Ashwatthama lies alone in the desert to deal with his immortality and leprosy. What begins from here is a purely fictional yet quite interesting story of his revenge , love and the a lot of realizations of the aftermath of choices. By all accounts this one is a fast , engaging read with almost no flaws. As a lover of thriller / adventure I relished this one and it was rarely that I felt  I am reading a mythology book. 

Aditya's writing is taut , the story has good pace and twists and the characters well sketched. There is no moment that the story feels dull. I quite enjoyed the monologues that go on in Ashwatthama's head about his past and present , with a certain voice of sarcasm and wit thrown in. It is the kind of story and writing i expected from Aditya based on his first book. 

But this is totally fictional tale that has some refernece from Mahabharata makes it a little hard to love. If one expects the real , researched tale of Ashwatthama, one might be disappointed. If you treat it as just another fictional book , then the lead character needs a bit more flesh. At the end of the book , I had more sympathies with Ashwatthama but could not fully cheer for his victory either.

My Rating : 3.5/5

Buy the book here

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