Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Birthday Chandana

Late are the wishes
And words may be few
But with all the love in our hearts
We wish HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you..

A new year beckons
A new dawn smiles
Mesmerise us with your words
and let the reviews fly...

Happy Birthday Chandana aka The Girl @ First Avenue

P.S: I go for one day and you guys forget! *SIGH* Extremely sorry Chandana for the late wishes.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Happy Birthday ALOP

For a website that started as a dream by naive book lovers, today, ALOP has completed its first anniversary. A year since its humble birth and I'm proud to say that it has been exciting as hell. When I first started this blog, I roped in fellow friends Pulkit, Nimue and Maithili. We four started this venture together and a year later, this baby of ours is growing up fast!

And then came MSM and Arpita. And with them, the floodgates opened to the public. From a small book review blog, ALOP has made huge but firm steps in the world of reviewing books. There is a lot to learn and there is a lot to achieve, but the past last year has given me the faith that we WILL GROW BIGGER and BETTER.

So, one year down the line, we have some awesome contributors like UCV, Nightflier, Vivek, Swarnali and a few newcomers as well who are settling down. We have had some wonderful review requests from authors both Indian and worldwide. We've already interviewed two fabulous authors and by the looks of it, we have quite a queue at the moment.

Now let's talk about some changes.
As you've probably noticed, there was no MoM for this month. And this will remain so, unless someone other than me or Vivek comes up with more than 5 reviews a month. Why? Because its simply painful to pay for books when the contributor reviews only 2-3 books and is the number 1 contributor of the month.
Giveaways go an a break as well. Until August atleast. Sad much? Sorry, its been a tight couple of months. And we're probably the only blog that gives away free books from our own pockets every month

This may be a surprise for some of you, but I've decided to step down from whatever post I was holding at ALOP. Why? Because I'm burnt out. Now before you get outraged, let me say that I'll continue be with ALOP. I am simply not the face of ALOP anymore. Ofcourse I'll still be reading and reviewing books and occassionally take interviews.
I've been grooming MSM for this position for a month now and I believe she is ready. Arpita is one of the best finds and fastest learners and with Nimue being the blog's Godmother, ALOP is in safe hands.

That reminds me, there are outstanding dues to Nimue, Arpita and Aishwarya. I'm doing my best to clear them. Just need a little more time.
Swarnali is to be made an Admin. That is one of my last decisions before stepping down. Other admins, please do the needful and make her feel welcome. Even though Pulkit is not here with us today, he is and will still remain an Admin till the day he returns and takes up his post.
I'd also like to remind all the admins that there is a code we adher to at ALOP. Our motto says "you want it, we read it". Be true to it always.
I've so much to say but I don't know how and if I did, I wouldn't know how to stop. ALOP is family to all of us. There is a reason why we're better than every other site. Find the reason yourselves. ALOP has been my baby and I'll always love it and you guys.


Its FL signing off...
P.S| Don't let the blog fade away in my absence.

( This is Nimue posting it and i swear i wanted to remove the last part . but I will handle that later )

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Everything is illuminated By Jonathan Safran Foer

Publisher: Penguin UK
ISBN: 0141037326
Genre: Novel, fiction
Pages: 276
Bestsellers: Everything is illuminated, Extremely loud and incredibly close
Published: 2002

Synopsis: [from flipkart] It tells the story of a young man who goes to the Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. He is aided in his quest by a blind old man, a randy guide dog and a very, very bad translator. It is funny, moving and gripping.

Nightflier Speaks:
Lately my reading list has been brimming with 'big, huge, bulky' books. So when a friend was redeeming a gift coupon and asked for suggestions, I very selfishly told her to include this rather small one. She did and I got my hands on this much talked about debut novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. From the title it felt like a very self indulgent tale. Midway I realized how the title is a clever play on words, from a non-english-speaking person's point of view. Also, I love stories set in Nazi germany. There is a distinct human-ness in them.

This story is about an American, on a journey to meet a woman who saved his grandfather in the Nazi days, with the help of a young translator Sasha, his seemingly blind grandfather Alex as the driver and the grandfather's deranged dog (bitch) Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. A simple tale of search and finding something. It is made hilarious by the meager english speaking skills of Sasha. American, is aptly called 'the hero' in third person. The myriad getting on the nerves conversations these 3 have, with the quirks of Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. set the pace for the journey. It has the peculiarity of a foreigner caught in a poignant search amid very curious locals.

The author uses many narrative techniques. There is a non-english speaking Ukrainian telling the tale with the most hilarious use of the thesaurus. Few gems - manufacture tears, feeling premium, etc.
There is an objective voice talking about the history of the place and people. There is magical realism. There is this use of colloquial Jewish vocabulary and Jewish humor every now and then. Though I was a bit lost in the first 50 pages, I egged on. All techniques fit nicely in the scope of the book and add a distinct flavor to the story. Though I am wondering if, for a first book this is too much experimentation!

Writing always gives you second chances. It gives you an option to write 'the truth' or hide it in layers. But 'the truth' makes stories more human. And every character in the book is so much more than they seem. Brod, Lista, Sasha, Alex, Yankel, and numerous other beautiful people. All have a sense of melancholy to them. The book carries it very seamlessly from one character's perspective to the other. It is a great debut novel. To be read in one seating, and journey to pre-war, post-war Ukraine.

P.S. there is a movie based the book. Trailer here -

Rating: 4/5
Price: Rs. 223 [flipkart]

Monday, June 25, 2012

Skid Marks of Logic - Divya Diana Dias

AUTHOR: Divya Diana Dias
Genre: Romance / Fiction
ISBN-13: 9789381576670
PRICE: Rs.175 (I received the copy from the author for review) 

BACK COVER SAYS: Some people stop themselves from doing what they want because of what their friends would think about them. Some people are too afraid to accept what is right in front of them. Some people regret their silly reasons, wondering why they did not succumb to their desires at the time. Payal, Danielle and Janvi are some people. But now they want to change. They want to shatter the chains that society has bound them with and win the war that rages within them, once and for all. Will they succeed? 'Skid Marks of Logic' reveals

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Crazy; complex and mostly misunderstood; Divya has gone from completing B. Pharm at UDCT to copywriting at JWT; Mumbai. She read her first romance when she was eleven and started creating her own heroes soon after. Skid Marks of Logic happened when she realized she was restricting herself too much. She advocates not taking reputations too seriously; and hopes you will fall in love with the characters of this book just as she has

SWARNALI SPEAKS: The book is divided into three parts, three novellas - Ostrich, Friends with Benefits  and Mergers And Acquisitions.  Each part describes the escapades of the respective three heroines, Payal, Danielle and Janvi.

First thing, I love the narration. Divya had me hooked to the book from the very first paragraph. The symbolic use of the ostrich is exceptional. The author nailed it when she describes the Indian scenario regarding the subject of sex. We are indeed like the ostrich, we love hiding our faces when we want to escape a situation. We happily shove the subject under the rug and maintain a constant complacency. The author doesn't attempt to change our thoughts regarding the subject but she brings out three hypothetical situations where three women, modern as we can call them, come out of the constraints and search for an alternate path.

Ostrich is about Payal, popularly known as the "timid mouse" amongst her friends. But does she stick to that definition?  What happens when the mouse isn't timid anymore? Read more to know how Payal dupes the hunk Xerxus into kissing her. The constant hide and seek game that she plays until she gets the guy she wants, Payal has carefully planned her entire game plan.

Friends with Benefits.  Very clichéd, right? Does it remind you of the numerous movies with the same concept? Think of all of them. Done? Good. Now read the story and be surprised :D  Despite the extremely clichéd name and concept, Divya successfully pulls a convincing plot. The descriptions provide titillations true but the author knows really well when to gather the strings. Danielle’s escapade is probably every romantic’s dream date. Read it to know more.

Mergers And Acquisitions is another very known concept, an affair between the employee and the boss. But is it so easy for the fair and handsome Rhys Callahan to get Janvi just because she is his employee?

Summing up, the characters in the books are very convincing, be it the lead women or the men in their lives. The author has carefully created each character into life like people. Their lives are as real as it can be. The plots aren’t exceptional, but they are worth reading. The symbols and images used in the books is what I absolutely loved. The author’s sense of humour and witty dialogues keeps the reader glued to the book till the end. A very entertaining read.

RATING: 3.5 / 5

P.S. – I loved the acknowledgement page.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Title: The Lincoln Lawyer
Author: Michael Connelly
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4555-0023-9
First Published: 2005
Genre: Crime Fiction,Mystery
Pages: 505
Rating: 3.75/5

Summary (From Goodreads)

"The scariest client a lawyer will ever have is an innocent client. Because if you [screw] up and he goes to prison, it'll scar you for life."Louis Roulet, Mickey's "franchise client" (so-called becaue he's able and willing to pay whatever his defense costs) seems to be the one his father warned him against, as well as being a few rungs higher on the socio-economic ladder than the drug dealers, homeboys, and motorcycle thugs who comprise Mickey's regular case load. But as the holes in Roulet's story tear Mickey's theory of the case to shreds, his thoughts turn more to Jesus Menendez, a former client convicted of a similar crime who's now languishing in San Quentin. Connelly tellingly delineates the code of legal ethics Mickey lives by: "It didn't matter...whether the defendant 'did it' or not. What mattered was the evidence against him--the proof--and if and how it could be neutralized. My job was to bury the proof, to color the proof a shade of gray. Gray was the color of reasonable doubt." But by the time his client goes to trial, Mickey's feeling a few very reasonable doubts of his own.

What I feel :
'There is no client as scary as an innocent man'

I had seen the trailor of the movie version and I kinda got the idea.The plot in a nut shell would be sleazy/anti hero lawyer,an assault/rape,a victim-Reggie Campo,a suspect-Louis Roulet.The twist- the readers are unsure who is the victim and who is the suspect.
The protagonist,Mickey Haller, defense attorney is juggling with his professional life and personal life when he hits the jackpot, a franchise client Louis Roulet.Initially the case looks like a clear win for Mickey until he starts noticing glitches in the stories of both Louis Roulet and Reggie Campo.Add to the current mess,Mickey is haunted by an old case-similar in many grounds, in which he made his client(Jesus Menendez) plead guilty in order to avoid death sentence.Now he feels he is face to face with his biggest fear-not recognizing an innocent client about which his father had written in many of his books.From there its a roller coaster ride.By the middle of the book the readers would know who did what but the question remains how will Mickey escape from the trap which he himself set.
Even though Mickey is portrayed as a corrupt lawyer who defends just about anybody who is willing to pay him,the readers would more likely be drawn to him.His charm and his quick tongue is  almost irresistible!The fact that he buys 4 Lincoln cars with the money he got from winning some old case and thinking about using it as limo service,he still being cordial with both of his ex wives and finding time to mend ways with his daughter is quite endearing.
What particularly marveled me was the vast knowledge about legal affairs by the author(which obviously shows how good a researcher he is).Not just the rules and regulations but the shady deals too which makes the plot more realistic.Loads of twists and turns leaving the readers almost breathless.The book was aptly paced,suspense increasing by each page leaving me tempted to flip pages and read the ending.
I was a tad bit disappointed with the climax,it seemed a little filmy. Other than that, an impressive read.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Extras by Kiran Nagarkar

Author:  Kiran Nagarkar
First published in 2012 March
Price:INR 599
Published by: Fourth Estate
     First things first,Kiran Nagarkar's 'The Extras' is a sequel to his 1995 novel 'Eddie and Raven'. I haven't read 'E&R' still I thoroughly enjoyed it's sequel which traces the adult lives of the protagonists,Eddie Coutinho and Raven Pawar.’The Extras’ is a ‘big book’.At 488 odd pages,the novel is way too long but that doesn’t make it a boring affair.Infact I enjoyed it more than any other book which i read recently.Set in the Bombay of the 80' s,Kiran tells a touching and poignant tale of life,love & hope and asks the readers to decide:are we protagonists or are we mere 'extras' in that movie called 'life'?
     Raven is a lowly taxi driver while Eddie has grown up to become a bouncer-cum-bar tender in an illegal bar.Both of them share the dream of becoming a 'superstar',one day.Pieta,Eddie's sister is Raven's object of affection while Bellie,an anglo-indian girl is Eddie's girl friend.Though their love lives aren't reaching anywhere our 'heroes' are optimistic that one day they will be able to live the life of their dreams.'The Extras' is infact their journey to the same.
    Nagarkar's prose is humorous and packs in plenty of twists and turns at regular intervals.Pieta's 'induction' episode was something which was totally unexpected.The humour in the book is subtle (and often satirical) but succeeds in bringing a smile on to your face most of the time.Though the pace slackens intermittently Nagarkar's prose overcomes it with brilliant one-liners and satirical observations which have been sprinkled in between.
     The Extras is not a book which revolves around it's protagonists alone.The novel has got a couple of strong female characters in Pieta,Bellie and Aasman.The good thing about them is that neither of them are Bollywoodish nor do they behave as if they are from a 'Chetan Bhagat' novel.So we don't find Bellie ditching the rich,Vijendra Malaviya for her former lover nor do we get to see Aasman marrying Eddie in the end.Similarly Pieta's character is also well etched out and I firmly believe any normal girl would have behaved pretty much the same way in similar circumstances.The other notable feminine presence in the novel-Parvathy bhai,Raven's mother and violet,Eddie's mom also manage to leave a lasting impression though I was wondering where the two of them had disappeared towards the end.So is Swapnaji,the nymphomaniac who ends up infecting Eddie with a VD.
      The book has got more than half a dozen LoL moments.The scene in which Eddie's mother visits him in the hospital thinking that he has got a terminal illness,for instance is genuinely hilarious.The novel has also got a couple of sub-plots like the 'Raven-gangster(three point one)' track, the 'Eddie-Mrs Fernandez',and 'Aasman-Yakub' ones.The short essays about 'Mumbai's taxis,the band bajaa..' et al which appears in the former half and the gangster's letters to his talisman which comes in the latter half were often funny and insightful.The 'Helen-E&R' dance sequence was also good.However some of the instances in the book seemed totally unwanted.For example,a couple of sequences in the Auntie's joint,the scene in which Eddie asks Bellie to give his friend a handjob only served the purpose of increasing the length of the book.
The final Verdict: On the whole,Kiran Nagarkar's 'The Extras' is an engaging read and is one of the best books on post colonial Mumbai.I am giving four on five(4/5) for this entertaining novel.
-reviewed by nikhimenon.2012.
(please do not copy)

Manhunt - From 9/11 to Abottabad – The Ten Year Search For Osama Bin Laden

Author: Peter Bergen
ISBN: 1446496473, 9781446496473
Publisher and copy courtesy: Random House India
Pages: 384
Genre: Non fiction

I finished reading Peter Bergen’s Manhunt: From 9/11 to Abottabad – The Ten Year Search For Osama Bin Laden a couple of days ago, and although the book said so much to me, I find there is not much I have to say about it. These current affairs/general knowledge-y books are quite wasted on a person like me who chooses to not read the news. But it was hard to resist a book about a man who changed the course of humanity, when it presented itself. And through the 240 pages of the book, I lost myself in the fascinating, almost novel-like story of America’s hunt for Bin Laden after he launched what was perhaps the most brutal terrorist attack in the history of modern civilization.

The book takes us through Bin Laden and the American law enforcement agencies’ long parallel paths from 2001 through 2011 until they finally converge in Pakistan. Bergen traces the beginnings and rise of Bin Laden and America’s, especially, the CIA’s consequent search of him. He tells how from Somalia to Saudi to Afghanistan to Pakistan, from the Clinton to the Bush to the Obama administration, the deft Osama gave the Americans the slip for nearly two decades. The author recounts how the Bush administration made one expensive error of letting Osama slip by in the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 attacks and how it cost them hundreds of thousands of man hours and money. He goes on the say how things changed once Obama took over and how despite his anti-war stance, he gave it his all to find America’s number one enemy.

Bergen sketches Osama’s life on the run too. Sourcing from the many documents and proofs collected by the intelligence agencies, he describes Osama’s near infallible security measures, his astute leadership skills while in hiding and even some idiosyncrasies. He offers glimpses of his family life, especially his relationship with his wives and children, and close associates as well. It is easy to imagine a Bin laden holed up in the caves or in an inconspicuous bungalow when Bergen writes about it.

While Bergen’s writing is good, he never tries to be anything else but the journalist that he is. His lines are fact-laden, purposeful with not one unnecessary word.  You may well be reading newspaper reports because Bergen’s words lack emotion. However, his pace more than makes up for it, and will serve well devourers of news. As for me, I’ve said so much already, but do you notice how I’ve not said anything (significant) at all? Well, the bottom line is 2 out of 5.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Canticle - Ken Scholes


Book 2 of 'Psalms of Isaak'

Read about book 1 HERE

ISBN - 978-0-7653-6092-2
PAGES - 482
GENRE - Fantasy
BINDING - paperback

AUTHOR - Ken Scholes

BEST-SELLERS - Lamentation

SYNOPSIS - [From the back cover]

NINE MONTHS AGO, the power and the wealth of the Andofrancine Order passed into the hands of Rudolfo, General of the wandering Army and the Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses. Nine months ago, his consort, Jin Li Tam, told him he'd finally have an heir. Nine months ago, Rudolfo and Isaak began transcribing the books and records from the devastated city of Windwir from the memories of the Mechoservitors, and collecting them into a new Great Library.

Today, many noble allies have come to the Ninefold Forest for a feast in honor of the General Rudolfo's first-born child.

Suddenly, as the feast begins, the doors of the hall fly open and magicked, invisible assassins attack. The Gypsy Scouts are unable to fight them off, and all of Rudolfo's noble guests are slain. And yet Rudolfo himself is not touched.

And at the same moment, on the Keeper's Gate which guards the Named Lands from the Churning Wastes, a strange figure has appeared with a message for Petronus, the Hidden Pope.

Thus begins the second movement of The Psalms of Isaak.

FL Speak - When you read a first book and you realize how much you love it, you tend to have great expectations from the second. And Canticle, did not disappoint.

The war of the Named Lands is over. Although not entirely. The Entrolusian City states are in civil war. In the last book, Petronus, the last Pope, kills Sethbert in front of the public thereby forever voiding the office and power of the Pope. In the second book, all the characters are moving outwards. The Ninefold Forest Houses are attacked my magicked assailants and two of the top rulers are murdered on the day of the feast. The assailants are later found dead but they were Marsh folk, who were the kin-clave of the Ninefold Houses.

And thus begins the tale of Canticle, where enemies roam within allies and friendship can be discarded in a whim. Vlad Li Tam takes his entire family away from the Named Lands in search of the enemy that destroyed Windwir and infiltrated his own network. And a horrible surprise awaits him whose fate he cannot escape. Everything has been planned from before, including the fall of Windwir and including the death of Vlad Li Tam.

When Petronus is hauled for charges against him, the House Y'Zir ascends back to the Named Lands. The Marsh folk are disbanded and a new power has risen. A power that the Ninefold Houses had to accept, a power that could do them all. Lamentation showed how the ruler of the Wandering Army was a pawn in the great machinations of a political game. Now it seems his new born son is the result of the same fate. With no allies and no knowledge of the real enemy, Rudolfo plays a waiting game.

Neb, the dreamer who the Marsh folk believed would lead them home is on a separate journey with Isaak. Looks like the Andofrancines believed the threat to the Named Lands so much that they sent metal men to the Churned Wastes to create the Great Library from scratch again. But the Metal Men changed somehow and the Library is not what it seems. And the identity if the messenger for the Emerald Queen will blow your minds away.

This book is much darker than Lamentation. The torture scenes, specially. However, it adds to the character's development and and reminds us of the sinister shadowy threat they are actually facing.

For a series that's called 'Psalms of Isaak', there is very little of Isaak in the novel. Nevertheless, this is one of the most exciting new fantasy series out there. The political intrigue is thrilling and the way it is moving forward is wonderful. Rudolfo is by far the best character, followed closely by Petronus. The world-building is impeccable and Scholes writes a fast paced tale that is bound to keep you turning page after page. How this series moves forward, now its up to the author. And you can bet am excited as hell.

My Rating - 4 stars

PRICE - INR 350/-

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tea for Two and a piece of cake By Preeti Shenoy

Image Source:

AUTHOR: Preeti Shenoy


What if life threw you a magnificent opportunity, only to knock you down later and laugh at you? Would you fight back or let it pass?

Nisha's life is far from perfect. At twenty - six, she is plump, plain looking, and without a boyfriend. A chance date and a bizarre twists of events lead her to the altar with suave Samir Sharma, only to be abandoned eight years later. As she struggles to stand on her own feet, Akash, a younger guy, enters her life.  Can Nisha find love a second time?

TEA FOR TWO AND A PIECE OF CAKE is an unusual, a heart warming, and gripping love-story between two people who have so much to lose by getting into a relationship with each other, yet so much to gain.

EXCERPT: I am bathing our seven-month old baby boy when my husband calls to tell me that our marriage of eight years is over. I rush out of the bathroom, wrap the baby in a towel and am cradling the phone in my ear, with one hand on the baby to prevent him from rolling over the bed, and go crashing to the floor. My hands are still wet, and I wipe them hurriedly as I pick up the phone. When my husband tells me in a calm voice that it is over and he is leaving me, I fail to comprehend.

Then my heart starts beating at what feels like a thousand beats a minute. No, it starts pounding and all I can hear is his steely calm voice saying, 'Hello_____ you there?'

MSM Speaks: I had a feeling with this book that it will make me cry. And it did. The story is about Nisha, who was left motherless at 5, with her father steeling his heart to eliminate chances of any grief that he would feel. Nisha was neglected and was more of a loner, as she grew up. She started working in a travel agency, where one day, Fate smiled and threw an opportunity of lifetime before her. Nisha grabbed the chance but fell hard on her face, losing the job and reputation. Then Samir comes in with a magic wand and hands over  to her, the keys to a magical kingdom, which Nisha would not even have dreamed of, to be hers.

After the sudden death of her father, she moves into this magical kingdom as Mrs. Sharma. That's when life becomes worse than what it used to be. Samir leaves Nisha after eight years of marriage for another woman, leaving her with two small children. Broken and shattered beyond repair, Nisha begins a new life, alone with her kids in her old house. Akash, her office colleague and a friend of long time, helps her fill the void that had left a gaping hole in her heart. But what about society, her children, her need to spill out things unspoken and love? Could she afford to take the risk.

Preeti Shenoy with her words, warmed my heart like any thing with her tale. I was riding on a roller coaster of emotions with the protagonist. Her naivety was sometimes annoying and at some places, I thought the author had unnecessarily dragged the story, prolonging the depressing mood. The entry of Akash is blissful and uplifts the mood. The book towards the end gushes forward, making me feel that the author wanted to finish it as soon as possible. Overall, I liked the story and would pick it up again, when I would feel like life  is pulling me down too much. Quite an inspiring work, I'd say!

My rating: 4/5 (Few lengthy bits could have been done away with)
TEA FOR TWO AND A PIECE OF CAKE@ Random House Publishers India Pvt. Ltd. (c) 2012
ISBN 978-81-8400-279-9
flipkart price: 94/- INR

Happy Birthday Swarnali

A rising star leaps,
A new horizon awaits
To begin, afresh.

Wishing Swarnali A very Happy Birthday from the entire team at ALOP

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lamentation - Ken Scholes


Book 1 of "Psalms of Isaak"

ISBN - 978-0-7653-6091-5
PAGES - 421
GENRE - Fantasy
BINDING - Paperback

AUTHOR - Ken Scholes

SYNOPSIS - An ancient weapon has destroyed the Androfrancine city of Windwir. From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses, sees the horrifyng column of smoke rising. Nearer to the Desolation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city - Nebios sat waiting for his father outside the walls and was transformed as he watched everyone he knew die in an instant.

And within sight of Windwir sits Sethbert, the Overseer of the Entrolusian City States, gloating in triumph. At his side is Lady Jin Li Tam - her father's pawn in the game of statecraft but destined to become her own Queen on the board.

Soon all the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at one another's throats.

EXCERPT - It is a bird made of metal, a gold spark against the blue expanse that catches the afternoon sun. The bird circles and waits.

When the song begins below, the golden bird watches the melody unfold. A shadow falls across the city and the air becomes still. Tiny figures stop moving and look up. A flock of bird lifts and scatters. The sky is torn and fire rains down until only utter darkness remains. Darkness and heat.

FL Speak - I've absolute no idea why this book was lying on my shelf for the last 2 months without being read. In the last 2 months, I read 11 non-fantasy books. ELEVEN!! And I still twitched before picking up Ken Scholes. Partly because he's a new writer, I haven't heard of before and partly because I wanted my comeback to fantasy genre with a fantastic book. I shouldn't have twitched.

This book just blew me away. And I've no idea why he isn't so well known. "Lamentation" has everything, everything that every debutant wishes he had in his book. And as soon as I finished it, I snatched the second book of this amazing epic series from the shelf.

Coming back to the book, the Named Lands are in a mess. The most powerful city of Windwir lies in a pack of rubble and bones. The entire city has been destroyed in a couple of seconds, the Great Library demolished and human flesh charred in the fiery heat. It took less than a minute and the city of Windwir is no more. The Gypsy King with his Wandering Army races to the city to offer whatever aid he could find. Another army marches nearby. The Entrolusians under the rule of the Overseer Sethbert is riding towards the fallen city of Windwir, even boasting that it was his doing. But when the new Pope of Windwir evokes the Writ of Shunning to the Gypsy King, it looked like an ever greater war is coming. Because the Writ of Shunning effectively put the The Gypsy King and his Wandering Army as the people behind the destruction of Windwir.

Meanwhile the House of Li Tam has allied themselves with the Gypsy King which puts a bigger question to the fore. Why? What did the ruler of House Li Tam know that no one else knew? Elsewhere, a once forgotten man, believed to be dead, rises and proclaims himself the true Pope and armies rally against both the Popes. And in the aftermath of the confusion, the truth remains obscure until the true Pope begins to peel the layers of deceit. Someone knew Windwir would fall, someone even made sure it would. All that remained to be known was who was manipulating the events. Is the Gypsy King really the victim or was someone guiding him all his life to this very moment. But when armies clash and the sword sings, the only thing left to do is survive.

Wow! I stayed awake all night determined to finish this. Sleep came hours later after my mind repeated the scene again and again, over and over. This is one series that is going to take the world by storm and fling it aside. Lamentation gave me the shivers, the thrill, the absolute joy that any fantasy lovers wish to visit upon.

Ken Scholes writes with such clarity and speed that you're in no way able to even guess what might crop up next. If you believed you've realized the plot, hang on to your hats buddy. You're in for a helluva ride. The reluctant Pope, the arrogant enemy, the sly tactician, the naive dreamer boy, the brave warrior and a smoking lethal lady, this book has it all. And the next book, Canticle, is sure to be a scorcher.

My Rating - 5 stars

INR 260/-

Running a Marathon with Girish Kohli

He is one of the Best Selling Authors of 2012 (Currently at No. 13 on the Nielsen’s Top 50 Bestseller charts in India, beating bestsellers by Rashmi Bansal, Paulo Coelho, Robin Sharma, Durjoy Dutta and others @ and doesn’t sell out himself. He is as warm as a Cuppa of Ginger tea in Rains and loves to talk. He isn’t your typical suited-booted bureaucratic kinds, but young, enthusiastic and a fun loving person. Some call his work utter madness, some are sweeped by his intoxicating words and some believe that no one could have enwrapped the concept of God and religion, without being too obnoxious about it, other than him.

One of our most beloved members, MSM, interviews this stellar author on the highs and lows of publishing his first book and the changes it brought.

All Ye young and old minds, presenting to you – to get high on this trippy, weedy (Yeah, you read it wrong – I said witty ;)) and crisp novella – the Creator of Marathon Baba, Mr. Girish Kohli!

We asked: Hello Mr. Girish, instead of asking the clichéd question, that everyone seems to ask in an interview (Girish Laughs) :D, let me ask you this – What is your favorite in music?
GK: I really love listening to Lucky Ali. He’s been my favorite for a very long time and I really admire him.

We asked: Favorite Food?
GK: Rajmah, Paneer Bhurji and Parathas.

We asked: Describe yourself in 5 words.
GK: Angry, young, gentle, man!!! Let the fifth word be a mystery. Let there be something for people to find out.

We asked: I also heard “Chanchal Mann” – theme song of Marathon Baba. It’s brilliant. You’ve written it.
GK: Yes, I wrote that song. I also love to play the guitar and I would like to learn more, but for this song, we needed professionals and not someone like me. I am just a guy who plays in the moment and less in sync :)

[PS: Guys, here's the video for Chanchal Mann, also called the Running Song.]

We asked: Haha :D You can hire me too, I am currently unemployed and I can sing and play a bit too. By the way, how did you manage to fracture your leg?
GK: If I tell you, you would laugh at me. (I promised him I would not :D GK did share the incident – but I am not going to mention it here. However, he has displaced the bone of his leg because of the accident and is on complete bed rest – with pain killers for another month).

We asked: Apart from Writing and Music, what do you enjoy doing the most?
GK: I love love love travelling. I love to get lost. Travelling is fun only when you reach somewhere and then realize that this is where you wanted to come. Getting lost and using the stars to find your way back is how I like to travel.

We asked: How did your life change after Marathon Baba?
GK: You know, seriously nothing changed much.

We asked: What about the fan mails, interviews?
GK: Yes, fan mails are there. I would rather have a normal chat with the people who’ve read my book than just signing the book for them. I don’t like interviews as there are same repetitive questions and sometimes, what I don’t intend to say is also published.

“I believe I should let my work speak best for me.”

I didn’t really answer your question about life changing, but I remember an incident which really made me feel humbled and indebted. A person, who had read my book, came all the way from out of Mumbai, to see me. We had a nice conversation. Such incidents really touch me. Also, with Marathon Baba published, everyone wanted to publish my works. I also got an offer for writing a sequel to Marathon Baba, but for now I have not agreed to it.

We asked: Is there any change in how your friends treat you, since you are a Writer now?
GK: No. That’s why they are friends. They love me even though I am an eccentric writer who switches off his phone and disappears for indefinite time to an undisclosed location.

“Friendship is never because of, it is instead of.”

We asked: That’s really nice of you. So, you always wanted to write or one day you just decided that you need to write?
GK: I always wanted to be a writer. I had always dreamt of a life that I would have a small house, where I would keep writing. But you know, you do need to earn a small something from your work. My first unpublished written work (The Pilot….) was of 1, 20, 000 words. While I was running around to get it published and was being rejected (Publishers never tell you why they are rejecting you, they just do or rather say that your work doesn’t match their criteria). I realized that it was not me, who had written it. It was just bullshit. You need to accept what you are when you write, that’s how you grow. I won’t call myself a writer until I begin to survive only on my writing and I guess that will happen only when I would have written 8 to 10 books.

We asked: I completely agree with you on that. What about the other unpublished work?
GK: I wrote another book called Junkies, which was 50, 000 words. It had the same Character Description style, which I have used in Marathon Baba. I was really happy with my work, for I had put a lot of myself in it and I believed that no one would reject this one. But 6 publishers rejected it. I would call it a trippy work. Then over the course of one year, I realized there’s no point in denying what I wanted to write, no matter what the publishers said – because I understood that they (The people in general plus the publishers) were not ready for what I had written. And they might never be. I had stopped writing for a while. I also had written an inspirational book of 8, 000 words called AHOY! But things never materialized. Then Marathon Baba happened. Many people said that it was utter madness, while others said I should draw the book instead of writing it. Some said it made no sense, but I mostly received positive reviews.

I also believe that it is not like a movie script – which has to make sense. It is like the script of life, which does not make sense.”

We asked: That is quite an inspiring story in itself! :D So how did you come up with Marathon Baba? Was it already on your mind or you thought as you wrote?
                      “I believe that the first sentence of any story sets things into motion.”

Nothing was planned as I wrote Marathon Baba. Words came flowing naturally while I was working on it.  It was like you are high on writing, like you’re in a trance. And you need to find your own voice through your writing.

We asked: Rudyard Kipling too, had said the same thing. He used to become a different person when he used to write. However, there are a lot of Bollywood-ish references in Marathon Baba. I read somewhere that people did not really like Kiri’s entry and exit as a villain, even though I think it set a good plot for Karna’s exit.
GK: I agree that my characters speak in a filmy tone (everything in the book is larger than life) and I have made no attempt to hide that. It will sound funny if I tell you that Kiri or any other character was not in my control. They did what they wanted to. But Kiri's entry and exit should not surprise anyone because even before you know his name you are told that a folk tale is in the making. Kiri is the devotee who is asking for a boon from god and the devotee will use the boon against god. The plot is set from the first page itself. 

We asked: That’s very intriguing. So, Inspector Saab's character was inspired from a Hindi movie villain?
GK: No. He was inspired from all the real life inspectors that I have met. He was also inspired from my childhood. As a child we all have that one person who never grows old. For example, I had a teacher in school, who still looks exactly the way she looked when I first saw her as a kid. It’s because I have seen her after her face stopped changing.

We asked: There was a point in the book when Karna sleeps for the first time in 12 years - I had confusion, he was dreaming about Honey, but Honey in reality was Khushboo? The one he made love to? (Because she appears in yellow sari with a wig).
GK: Oh no. He thought he was dreaming that he was making love to Honey but he actually did make love to Honey. Honey also appears in a yellow Sari and a wig but that is just a momentary trick for cheap thrills. It leads to some anxiety about the agent's secret identity.

We asked: It definitely worked! Karna's appearance sounds familiar to what you really look like in life. If you were Karna, would you return home after facing threats from your father/Kiri/being house arrested by Maa?
GK: I think I would have never run away from home because I am way more sentimental about my parents than Karna. But, if I would have run away, I would have never come back.

We asked: You’ve also met Ruskin Bond. He’s my favorite Author. How was the meet?
GK: You must really visit Mussoorie and meet him. That man is brilliant, so down to earth. He visits Cambridge Bookstore everyday at around 4 PM. I remember when I had to see him, it had been pouring heavily and it was so cold, that he couldn’t speak. Yet, he ensured to meet me and go through Marathon Baba. It was really over whelming.

We asked: Touché. I would love to meet him someday. :)You spent quite some time to discover your true calling in Marathon Baba. Wasn’t there any family pressure meanwhile? You had quit a job and you were becoming a full time writer, what all did you go through?
GK: There was family pressure. I finished software engineering and joined a software firm. But after 4 months I realized, that the world within four walls was utter crap and I did not belong there. I did a lot of things though. I worked at a Garage for six months.

We asked: A Garage? Wow! Hahaha! I didn’t expect that. And?
GK: I also worked as a Fitness trainer at a gym for one year. Then I quit that and joined Dad’s business – that was to take care of his resort outside Mumbai. He is in land trade basically. I traveled a lot during these days, for the purpose of writing. I’ve traveled all over India and now I can proudly say that I’ve made friends across various states that I’ve been to. Now only North – East is left.

We asked: Nice Nice. :) :) Travelling really adds to your list of experiences. You also have an older brother – Gaurav Kohli. He supports you the most?
GK: How did you know? He takes care of all my social networking and online databases. He himself writes really well, but isn’t really keen on penning down.

We asked: May be you can push him a bit, but since you already are writing, I think he’s happy with it. All siblings tend to do that.
GK: I really want him to write, because I am sure he can write non-fiction really well.

We asked: I wish him Good luck. :) So, what plans ahead, after Marathon Baba?
GK: Currently, I have offers from the film and publishing industry.

We asked: What about FiNGERPRiNT (The Publishers of Marathon Baba)?
GK: They have all the rights of Marathon Baba. We are exploring if we can work together in the future.

We asked: Who do you like in Indian Writers and the works you loved to read?
GK: I have an immense amount of respect for Devdutt Pattnaik. I absolutely love his works. The Pregnant King is one of my favorites. I also loved One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Also, anyone who’s interested to understand how an organization is built and its hierarchy, the way it must be run efficiently, they must read The Sicilian by Mario Puzo. It is such a brilliant work of fiction. I would recommend it to anyone who’s aiming for an MBA.

We asked: If I ask you to summarize your book in one line, how would you do it?
GK: It’s the story of a boy who runs away from his home and makes an Ashram for all those who have run away from home.

We asked: Finally, would you like to say anything to young writers these days, including me? :D :)
GK: All I want to say to young writers is:

“Don’t write to get published. But publish because you have written.”

We asked: Now that’s something everyone should know. It has been really interesting to speak to you Mr. Girish.
GK: Same here. Same here. :) It has been a pleasure.

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