Saturday, January 25, 2020

#FaeFriday #WeeklyblogTag : Changeling


#FaeFriday is an new weekly post created by Kristy at Caffeinated Fae . This week on #FaeFriday, we’re talking about changelings. Faeries were often accused of leaving changelings in place of a child. So this week’s prompt is:

What is a book you picked up that wasn’t at all what you thought it would be?

I am very picky about books I read and I can be caught with a book that I hoped would be good but turned out to be average but rarely has it happened that I avoid a book *after* I have checked its review / ratings and opinions by trusted book lovers in my circle. Having said that , I do remember avoiding the Cormoran Strike books because I was not ready to judge J K Rowling for writing a different genre when I was still not over Harry Potter. When it was first revealed that The Cuckoo's Calling was written by Rowling under the Pseudonym Robert Galbraith , I decided to stay away from the books for the time being.



Multiple recommendations could not sway my decision till I chanced upon the show Strike  which is a adaptation of the book. I realized after completing the first story that the show is based on the new books by Rowling. I immediately stopped watching the show and picked the books (not the first one though) I read The Silkworm(book#2) , Career of Evil(book #3) and Lethal White(book#4) in a very short time and later finished watching the show too . I absolutely loved the character and dynamics of Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. Their friendship is so natural and full of respect , affection and admiration for each other that the transition for them over the four books was very appreciated.

My Favorite book in the series is Silkworm which is so atmospheric and layered that I felt it more like a literary creation than a mystery/ thriller one. It also has my favorite element - a novel manuscript , authors , publishers and a really twisted manuscript. After reading the series , I was more impressed by Rowling's skills as a master story teller. This series , though a thriller one , stands tall on the shoulders of a brilliantly spun story and backed by a wonderful cast.

On a side note, I felt the show episodes could have been more in number to match the length of the books and would be glad if this is taken care when the TV adaptation for Lethal White is released. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Regional: Bla Bla by U.K.Kumaran


                     Bla Bla is the collection of four Novellas by U.K.Kumaran which deals with varied and interesting themes.Teacher-Student relationship, the dark side of communal politics, strong inter-personal relationships and the beauty of mother nature are the themes and the author has succeeded in sketching his thoughts in an interesting and thought provoking manner.The prose is simple yet effective and there is a faint streak of humour running through out.Many of these stories also manage to generate curiosity among the readers about what is going to happen next.

                    'Ivan Ente Priya Shishyan','Shmashaanangalude Sauhrudam','Adutha Nimishathil' and 'Bla Bla' are the four Novellas.I enjoyed reading this collection.I'm giving this a 3.5 out of 5


-nikhimenon

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

#BookReview: Into the Night, and other stories by Aniesha Brahma

Into the Night, and other stories Into the Night, and other stories by Aniesha Brahma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Happy stories for a warming your heart

Aniesha is my go to author for smiles and sweet happy story. I have read all but one books by her and reviewed most on this blog.  Mostly her stories and the people are so real.. you can find loving them or finding your own thought echoed in their feelings. This is a very short read - a collection of six stories - each different in setting and cast but each leaving you with a smile.

The title Story "Into the night" is about six princesses and their one last (mis)adventure. It teaches one about courage to fix your mistakes and finding own happiness. Ariana's tale is set in the same world and is about love and decisions we take for love.

A bunch of roses was a sweet tale of nostalgia and friendship. Happenstance was quite crafty in being open ended and yet making you feel a little sorry for the lady in the story. Magic was the purely fantasy fictional tale and is an important lesson for many.

At last , the Missed bus is my favorite story of the book. It might feel a little predictable but the romantic in me could picture each scene as it happened and I just had such a huge grin on my face when I finished the story and the book too since this is the last story.

Overall I enjoyed this quick read a lot. It was a happy break from reality and as always with Aniesha's books, it made me believe in happiness , love and magic in the world once again.

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#PratsReads - Reshuffling the TBR

Top Ten Tuesday used to be a weekly post hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, but was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. “It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.” This week's topic is - The Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf

Since I have moved to a new country in Jan 2019, I do not have a bookshelf. And the knowledge that I have to move back to my home country someday makes it really difficult for me to buy too many physical books. I have in total less than 10 books (which as per my friends is still too many) in my room right now. But definitely no bookshelf, and hence no new addition worth mentioning here. But whats a reader without the ever-growing TBR pile ;)

My TBR pile rarely has the yet-to-be-published books or even the ones that are released within the last 3-6 months. Instead, I keep finding books/authors I have never read before and so they keep filling my TBR often. And then there are the books left unfinished for one reason or another. For 2020 , I decided to not run after new books but actually clear out my "to-read" list on Goodreads a bit. Here are the top 5 books/series that I plan to move to the "read" pile before 2021 -




  • Witcher Series - I rarely skip books before watching a movie or show based on them (unless I am not aware of the fact before I watch it ). From the day the series was announced to be adapted for a show, I added the books to my TBR. Now that season 1 is out, I started reading "The Last Wish" this week and I plan to finish most of the series this year for once and forever. 





  • Daddy Long Legs - This is one of the favorites of a dear book lover and friend. I am ashamed to admit that even after multiple reminders I have not read this one. But since it was discussed on our podcast's first episode, I have promised to read it this year for sure. 





  • Bartimaeus Series - I read the first book in the series some years back and this remains one of the very few series that I have not finished. I like Stroud's writing from his other books and found this series to be as much fun so there is no reason or excuse why I have not read the remaining two books. Hopefully this year I do. *fingers crossed*




  • Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie - some 5 years ago, I found this book in a cafe while on vacation to a small town. I bought the book to finish it once back home but never picked it again. From what I still remember it is a beautiful fantasy fiction story and its high time I finish reading it. 





  • Our Moon Has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits - Kashmir has always been the troubled part of my country. At one point, the Kashmiri Pandit community was forced to leave following brutal killings and torture by Islamist militants. This book is the powerful, unforgettable story of the author, then 14 years old, being driven out of his home and city.






Saturday, January 18, 2020

Review: A Tryst with Mahakaal - The Ghost who never Died by Tilak Dutta

A Tryst with Mahakaal - The Ghost who never Died
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are some ideas, which need the right time and right attitude. And then there are books that operate the same way. I have been fortunate that  when I came across Mahakaal, I was conditioned to be more receptive of this book and the various ideas that it champions throughout.

Mahakaal starts with introducing us to the central characters - Leela who has never believed in anything that can not be scientifically proven , not since she her childhood when she was sent to a boarding school in the city. Prior to that, she had some sense of wonder and freedom and knowledge of India's glorious past from her stay with her relatives in a farmhouse - specifically from her older cousin Bharat. When Leela is being chased by some criminals in a forest, she is saved by a mystical figure who calls himself Mahakaal and takes care of her physical and spiritual condition for about a week before sending her alone, back into the real world. Leela's story becomes a cause for much trouble for her and no one can find any signs of Mahakaal or believe that such a person even existed. Shunned by her closest friends and family as she searches for answers to some of the questions in her mind after her time with Mahakaal , her search leads her to Bharat and his current Project in a self-sustained village - Prithak Ghati (PG)

It is in the second and third sections of the book that the story becomes a little slow to read as there is a lot to assimilate in order to accept or reject the ideas being discussed by Bharat & Leela. Also, the different characters living in Prithak Ghati tend to become a little overwhelming to remember and follow with their own quirky identities. At one point , I felt like skipping a few parts to get the story moving. When you reach the sections of Bharat discussing his life journey and influences of his guru, whom the reader can guess is the same as the mystical Mahakaal the story enters the magical realism part which is handled masterfully in the story. By this time one with either like the story or it will not appeal to the reader at all.

What is truly commendable is the amount of research done for writing this story. This is a result of six years of effort by the author and the passion shines on every page of this 390 pages long book. I cannot even begin to imagine the resources and skills that went into putting all these details in the form of a story that is as engaging as enlightening.

For me, I have no particular complaints about the ideals and theories discussed in the book. I am especially aligned with Bharat's thoughts about changing oneself and the youth in the country if we need to fix the wrongs in our society and country. My struggle was with the number of such ideas and events. We have solutions for the political mess, the economic state, society's failures, personal transformation and so on. Then we also have the country going through really hard times and attacks on all fronts in the last chapter. There is simply too much going on in the story in the last section, which I could not be too interested to follow but I wanted to know the end of the book, which is left kind of open-ended. Another thing that I did not like was so much use of Hindi language dialogues in the book, some that felt unnecessary to me.

But my overall impression if the book stays the same as my rating - This was one worthy read indeed.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Review: The Blossom Twins (Detective Natalie Ward #5) by Carol Wyer

The Blossom Twins The Blossom Twins by Carol Wyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have always liked the stories about serial killer and more so when the case seem to kick some dust from the past that is already hurting the lead investigator. ther eis nothing like watching the person finding his/her sense of peace in the end. This book was a bittersweet end in that terms.

The story starts with murder of a teenage girl who had gone to a concert with her sister. Though the case is considered as a new case , something about it feels so off to DI ward. soon, there is another case of twin sisters disappearing from their backyard and it is no longer a different case but something that is so similar to that one case in the past that has always bothered Detective Natalie Ward even when she put the killer behind bars. She has always wondered if he had an accomplice or she let the real killer go free. Now , she has to face all these doubts and questions again while working hard to solve both the new cases.

I really liked the cast of the book and the lead lady DI ward more than the story here. A mother of two teenagers  who is struggling with breaking out of her marriage and a high profile case , her character shines throughout the book. The plot is really good and the references to one of her old case was enough to keep me engaged. The back story that runs in parallel was well placed but I felt the climax was a little off. The clues about what happened or was going to happen became a little obvious before we reached the point , but the writer had one last twist to play that really shocked me. It was heartbreaking in the end , either way you look at it. Overall a good read and something that could be read even in middle of the series but I really want to read the first books of this series now to know more about Natalie Ward. She is one kickass heroine in my opinion !

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Review: Cheese in the Trap ( Webseries + Show ) by Soon kki

Cheese in the Trap, Season 3 Cheese in the Trap by Soon Kki
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came across this show on Netflix while searching for a show featuring Park Hae-jin. Once I started the show, I got so engrossed in the character played by him in the show that I read the webtoon series to read more in detail about his character and also because almost everyone online cried that the webseries messed up the ending big time. I feel the same very strongly.

This is a story of a group of university kids going through various exams , friendships , love , influences from other people and their struggles in general. The focus of the show is on the relationship between hard working student Hong Seol , who is in the university only because of scholarship and by doing various jobs and her senior Yoo Jung who is seemingly perfect , rich & moody kid with a dark side to him. The story covers their struggles to connect to each other and ways they both bring a change to each other in subtle ways in the beginning which ultimately rolls into defining their characters in a completely new light. Inside the university, they engage with other students , each having its own story arc and being influenced by Yoo Jung in mysterious ways. Outside the university, we have the story of Yoo Jung's old friends - the brother sister duo who in their own way are the culprit and victim of how Yoo Jung interacts with the world.

The webtoon series is beautifully done - the expressions  , the setting , the dialogues and the moments of internal conflict and thoughts are all neatly drawn. There is a clear growth in the characters depicted not just by their actions but also tiny little actions they engage in. After watching the series , I was not expecting to be awed by the webtoon much but I was so wrong. the webtoon has so much depth in terms of plot and the story development. All the supporting casts , though seem to be in shades of grey , manage to get some sympathy from the reader. The highlight of this series for me is Yoo Jung's character and his growing attachment to Seol that makes him justify his actions in weird ways.

Read the webtoon here for the awesomeness it is , but if its too long for you , watch the show on Netflix [ i rate that 7.5/10 (1 point deducted for the ending) ]



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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: The City of Brass by S A Chakraborty

The City of Brass The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The cover and the blurb , basically the mere mention of djinn took me back to the story of Aladdin. Such was the nostalgia with which I started reading the story of Nahri. Nahri is a con woman with some special skills - she can understand any language , can feel the aura of a sick person and can suggest cures for the same. The story starts in Cairo where she accidently and very unknowingly calls upon the warrior Djinn Deva. For someone who does not beleive in magic and the stories of the mythical creatures , it is a shock for Nahri to accept that she is the offspring of one of these creatures and Deva is the protector warrior for her tribe. From here, we travel along these two to the city of Devabad - once occupied by the powerful Nahid clan who were overthrown and now are believed to be extinct till Nahri turns up. In Devabad , we have various tribes , ruled by a single king. The two princess - Muntadhir & Ali are two main characters we meet first followed by some others from different tribes. Needless to say Devabad is a boiling pot of political chaos which is further stirred when Nahri & Deva are accepted into the palace.

The world building in the book is pretty stunning and mesmerizing in the grandeur - be it cities or some of the beasts. Also , the characters are very much realistic and interesting with their choices , thoughts and little ways of standing out. It is a little sad to see Ali the scholar trapped between political scenario and his own belief system. Nahri shows sparks of growth and maturity at places but most times I feel she acts out without much thought. Though I found Nahri & Ali a little naive through out the book, I was impressed with Muntadir a lot. Even though he appears to be a spoiled prince, he has lot more diplomacy and understanding of the politics than Ali. He is one of my favorite character from this book while I await to know more about Deva. I felt Deva's story has been planted well but i need to know lot more about his past and future now. Also, the love story of Deva & Nahri was not at all convincing for me. I am not sure if it was even necessary because I still feel bad for Deva's end in the book. I still am not too clear about all the inter-tribe history and the details of the palace politics but I did not find it too distracting in the flow of this book atleast.

The story and the dialogues of the book are written very well , with a good flow and enough humor to make one laugh quite a few times. There is a natural feel to all the interactions and the various plot twists. The banter between Deva and Nahri in the beginning and later with Ali are refreshing. The end of the book, though felt might be a decent closure, had way too many twists that have raised a lot of questions in my mind now. I am eagerly looking forward to read the sequel and luckily , the last part of the series is set to be released in June 2020.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Regional: Flashback By Sudeesh Peringottukara


         Flashback by Sudeesh Peringottukara aspires to be a crime thriller. The story is about the mysterious death of a lady doctor .Dr Grace  is found dead in her in-law's house and though the death is initially dubbed as a case of suicide, pretty soon,it becomes evident that it's a case of Murder.The case is initially investigated by the local police team and when they fail to find out the truth, our protagonist enters and the real culprit is finally brought to the books.

       On the surface level, though this is a pretty interesting thought( a bit dated one though!), the execution and writing is quite lacklustre, making this one a pretty average work.The characters feel a bit half-baked and the reader doesn't get much time to invest himself to the proceedings.This book feels like those crime thrillers which used to come out in the late eightees and early ninetees.

On the whole, I'm giving a 2.5 out of 5 for this book.

-nikhimenon 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Regional: Twinkle Rosum 12 Kaamukanmarum by G.R.Indugopan


               

                   G.R.Indugopan has become the poster boy of present day's Malayalam Popular Fiction by now.His books are raw, rustic and has a very simple kanguage which the masses can relate to.I absolutely love reading his books and Twinkle Rosum 12 Kaamukanmarum is his latest, released by D.C Books.
             The book basically has three Novellas.The title one tells the story of an idyllic 'Punyaalan Dweepu'(island) somewhere in the outskirts of Kollam. Twinkle Rose is recently married to that Thuruthu,but it's soon revealed that she has an old connection with the island in Harro,who is our hero Terry's best friend.What happens when Anurag, her ex-lover comes to the island with his wretched 'plan' is what the story is all about.Coming to the positives, I liked the way Indigopan has created the setting and it's lively characters.The writer has always been known for the real,believable characters which he creates within a rural,atmospheric setting.Here also, he doesn't disappoint a bit.Coming to the negatives, I think the theme could have been developed a bit more and towards the end, the story doesn't entirely do justice to it's characters and their setting.Neverthless, this one is an enjoyable read!
             The second one, 'Pushpavallyum Yakshi Vasanthayum' is undoubtedly the pick of the lot.In this one, Indugopan returns to his favourite territory-the world inhabited by small time goondas and local underworld.We have two local Dons,Pushpavally and Vasantha and this story is all about their gang rivalry and upmanship.I don't know how many of you remember the hooch tragedy which shook Kollam district almost two decades back.It's quite obvious that the 'Pushpavally' of this story is more or less modelled on the female king pin of that notorious crime which shook the state sometime in the late ninetees.The climactic twist is indeed unexpected and has come out really well.If you loved 'Shankhumukhi',in all probability you will relish reading this novella.
              The third one, 'Aaralvaimozhiyile Pathi Ventha Manushyar' has elements of horror and also deals with some pertinent social issues and exploitation.This one is also a brilliantly executed tale.

On the whole,I'm giving a 3.75 out of 5 for this book.You won't regret buying this one!

-nikhimenon

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Regional: Postman by Benyamin


            Benyamin is a highly inconsistent writer in my personal opinion.While I loved reading his 'Aadujeevitham' and had an okay feeling about his 'Manjaveyil Maranangal',his 'AkkaPorinte Irupathu Nasrani Varshangal' and 'Shareera Shastram' kind of disappointed me.So I picked up his 'Postman', an anthology of eight stories dealing with helplessness and longing, to read with mixed feelings.But to my pleasant surprise, I liked this book a lot.The stories are genuine, contemporary and succeeds to a very large extend in portraying the emotions which the author has tried to convey.
            As I mentioned already, the book has got eight stories and the pick of the lot is undoubtedly the one titled Postman, which talks about a dedicated Postman in a small village who was reverred by almost everyone in the locality.After his passing away, his son discovers some secrets about him and how he deals with it is what the story is about.The story explores various themes like morality, the perception of right and wrong and also about 'untold' love.
           In Solapur,Benyamin narrates the sad tale of Shobhi and her husband who have been taken for a ride by the Kidney racket and the porn mafia.A genuinely moving tale about poverty and exploitation,this one is! Perhaps the weakest one of this lot is ,'Pusthakkada' in which the author has tried to show his contempt towards best sellers and what it's doing to the avid literature lover. I have multiple issues with this story.First of all, this story is a bit of a stretch and I genuinely do believe that 'popular fiction' also has a very big role in making non-readers to readers. C'mmon, each one of us were introduced to the world of books through these light stuff ,isn't it? But for what he has faltered in 'Pusthakkada',Benyamin more than makes up for it in 'Neeleswaram Baby' which is a genuinely satirical and interesting take on the modern day writers and the double standards they practice.'Markes',another enjoyable tale in this collection has it's protagonist in 'Gregory Mathews', a wannabe writer and the parallels with the Srinivasan character in 'Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala' is unmissable.'Alice In Wonderland' kind of reminded me of P.Padmarajan's 'Lola',but neverthless this one is also an okay read.

On the whole,I'm going with a 3.75 out of 5 for this collection.

-nikhimenon

#FaeFriday #WeeklyblogTag : Changeling

#FaeFriday is an new weekly post created by Kristy at Caffeinated Fae  . This week on #FaeFriday, we’re talking about changelings. Faeries...