Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Calcutta Chromosome- Amitav Ghosh

A novel of fevers,delirium and discovery.

Author : Amitav Ghosh

Best sellers: The hungry tide, A sea of poppies, Glass Palace.

Beginning at an unspecified time in the future and ranging back to the late nineteenth century, the readers follows the adventures of the enigmatic L. Murugan. An authority on the Nobel Prize- winning scientist Sir Ronald Ross, who solved the malaria puzzle in Calcutta in 1898, Murugan is in search of the elusive "Calcutta Chromosome."

"With this woman we are talking about a whole lot more than just talent; we may be talking genius here. You also have to remember that she wasn't hampered by the sort of stuff that might slow down someone who was conventionally trained: she wasn't carrying a shitload of theory in her head, she didn't need to read a zoological study to see that there was difference between Culex and Anopheles: she's have seen it like you or I can see the difference between a dachshund and a doberman. She didn't care about formal classifications. In fact she didn't even really care about malaria. That's probably why she got behind Ronnie Ross and started pushing him towards the finish-line. She was working towards something altogether different, and she'd begun to believe that the only way she was going to make her final breakthrough was by getting Ronnie Ross to make his. She had bigger things in mind than the malaria bug."
"Like what?" said Urmila.
" The Calcutta Chromosome."

Maithili Speaks:
Let me tell you why I picked up this book. I have read "The Hungry Tide" and it has some astonishing facts and woven into a fiction beyond imagination. I expected similar things from "The Calcutta Chromosome.". Okay I was not exactly expecting a ROBIN COOK but what I did find was not worth all the hype.
The story starts somewhere indefinitely in future and has a Machine called AVA which does all kinds of strange things and I m still not able to visualise how it looks.. It has got a man called Antar who looks from home. Ava is supposed to belong to a water company and yet I don't get what it is doing rounding up all things it lays its hands on.
The story then shifts to Murugan, Indian scientist obsessed with following the story of discovery of malarial lifecycle. 
Then there is whole theory of how malaria fever was purposely experimented to cure Syphilis.
Another tale talks of how someone already knew all about Malaria and simply acted as an anonymous lead to Ronald Ross to make the breakthrough.
Somewhere in this tale of scientists is intermingled the involvement of a Hindu spiritual group and a mysterious character called Lutchman or Laakhan.
Two reporters Urmiila and Sonali are placed in betweeen to act as string pullers. To be frank the entire tale lost me.. I was outright confused and didn't get the ending at one read.. 
The build up was excellent but the story didn't live up to the anticipation it built. 

Rating: 2.9 on 5 only for the excellent following up on Scientists and building a good mystery. Never mind the outcome..
Price : Rs 299/-

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ghost in the Machine by Ed James

About the author:
Ed James writes crime fiction, predominantly the Scott Cullen series of police procedurals set in Edinburgh and the surrounding Lothians. Ed also writes science fiction and mainstream fiction, but with a crime bent.

My thoughts on the book:
There are some books that intrigue you by the name itself. This is one such book. When you see the title “Ghost in the Machine”, you’d think it’s more of a children’s fiction than a crime-fiction. Even the cover does very little to make you think any different. So your interest is piqued.

The book begins with a scene where a woman is pushed into a room as she feels a rope biting her neck. The woman turns up in a missing person’s report two days later and is handed to Detective Constable (DC) Scott Cullen, at Lothian and Borders police, to look into. He begins his investigation with Acting DC Keith Miller and does the usual meeting the friends and family and looking to the welfare of the woman Caroline Adamson’s son as well. He doesn’t get wind of anything untoward happening with her until the morning of his day off when Caroline is found dead in a hotel room. The investigation now continues into her “death” as they look at the pool of suspects including someone the woman met on a social networking site.

As the investigation continues, so does the crime as we more twists and turns. Through the investigation, Cullen’s way is hindered in no small amount by Bain, the Detective Inspector he reports to. Bain thinks he’s already got the criminal, and looks for proof to complete his case, giving Cullen very meager work. It’s like a contest to see who solves the case first.

It’s a good plot and keeps you interested in knowing what actually happened. Just when you think the case is near solved, a twist comes in and keeps you interested. Towards the end, to an extent, you do know who the culprit is most likely to be. Though curiosity to know the ending does keep the read going along at a decent pace, I was a little uncomfortable with the Scottish accent words. I do give the author points for keeping the local dialect though, because it made an effect on the originality.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Book details:
Title: The Ghost in the Machine
Author: Ed James
Genre: Crime Fiction
Type: Kindle e-Book
Price: Free

Reviewed by Leo
Shared with First Reads Challenge

Friday, March 29, 2013

Beaten by Bhagath! - S.V. Divvaakar


ISBN - 978-93-82473-03-9
PAGES - 196
GENRE - Fiction/Self-Help/Reality Fiction
BINDING - Paperback

AUTHOR - S.V. Divvaakar

SYNOPSIS - ‘I’m sure you can do a much better job than Bhagath!’
When BB hears these inspiring words from his sexy lady boss, his staid life as a successful analyst in an MNC goes into a tailspin.

Bitten by the ego bug and smitten by her, BB sets off on his quest to write a book that’s better than India’s greatest writer Dr.Bhagath’s blockbusters. Nothing unusual about this for BB, who likes a good fight. Except that he and Bhagath had been classmates and friends at college. 

What follows is a roller-coaster voyage of the debutant author and his book, with all its twists and cul-de-sacs. Brushes with publishers, celebrities, retailers, book chains, and competition with the alliances among giants, mark the challenger’s journey, upping the stakes at every stage.

Will BB catch up with his famous friend?
What will their encounter be like?

Written from inside the ring, ‘Beaten by Bhagath’ is a gripping tale ...the first-ever about the unseen side of the wonderland of Indian fiction.

FL Speak - The title is very suggestive right? When I first picked up the book, I thought it would be a potboiler of a future Bollywood movie. Was I disappointed with my assumption? Very much. Was I disappointed with the book itself. NO.

Beaten by Bhagath is more of a self help/reality fiction book than a complete fiction. Ofcourse there is a fictional story in between. And I applaud the author for the entire concept. Writing a book is the easy part. Selling it is a whole different ball game. And this book shows how extremely hard it can be for a new author, much to the chagrin of the protagonist.

And then there are the funny moments. Like getting caught by his wife for splurging their savings on the survival of his book. If there is any bad luck in the world, it meets our defiant protagonist. But hardships and failures only strengthen the motivation. He survives. He fails. He realizes. Life is not a damned race around the world in 80 days. It is a leisurely world trip

The book does open your mind. I believe I can write a book. But the amount of moolah the protagonist spends in making sure his book reaches the right people makes me blanch. There is no way in sweet earth I can spend that much. Ergo, its no point writing a book that doesn't even make it to the local stand. Ofcourse, you'll say, you write a book because you want to. But who are we really kidding? We want others to read what we write.

If you're expecting a story of how two friends turn enemies/frenemies while in the competitive business of writing books, STOP. There is no such thing here. The cover art doesn't help. Its a guy holding a cricket bat with books flying all around. If you want to be an author and you've no bloody clue how to be one, or you're bored with all the soppy romance books by every engineer with over-glorified sex scenes and ever-changing metaphors for falling in love, this is the one to pick.

Never judge a book by its cover or its first few chapters. Some of them are gems in disguise of coals. Beaten by Bhagath may not be the cliched book you're expecting but if you do read it, you'll realize it was worth doubting yourself.

Rating - 3/5 stars

PRICE - INR 125/- 

P.S| Sincere apologies to the author and Yatin for the book. It has been an extremely difficult month both emotinally and socially. I hope the review was worth the wait. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review - Someone Like You by Nikita Singh and Durjoy Datta

About the authors:
Nikita Singh is the author of the book Love@Facebook and Accidentally In Love. After pursuing a degree in Pharmacy, she decided to try her hand in writing. Durjoy Datta is an engineer, and also has a management degree. He is the author of several books like Of Course I Love You and She Broke Up, I didn’t. This is the authors’ second collaboration after the novel If It’s Not Forever.

The book in a nutshell:
The novel is about a girl, Niharika who’s an introvert and a self-opined geek. She’s the plain girl with no interest to dress attractively, or date, she’s more into her academics… you could say she’s an exaggerated version of a first-bencher, with those thick glasses and eager to live up to people’s expectations. She’s had her heart broken early, and isn’t looking to repeat that experience and the repurcussions of it.

She gets into a top college away from her hometown, is called to Delhi by her sister (who’s that perfect girl, according to her) and she returns a changed person. She loses the glasses, begins to wear attractive dresses than old “rotten jeans” and well, changes into a girl. The once non-shopping girl then nearly gets into an accident when she comes out from shopping (strange, isn’t it?) and kind of falls in love with the guy who nearly hit her. She begins believing in relationships again when voila, she finds out they guy has a past that makes it personal for her. So dumping him immediately, she heads off to college.

After that, it’s like a college story. She finds a best friend Tanmay, who defends her against the college senior “bully”. He’s that introvert type like her too, and when she finds that Pia, her roommate is a rich, kind-of spoiled brat, she tries to set up the two of them up. When they seem to jump into trouble, a senior seems to come to their rescue. Meanwhile, the old boyfriend Akshat tries to win her back, and she finds herself attracted in a way to the senior guy. It’s like a roller coaster of her relationships. In between, a tragedy is thrown in that we kind of begin to expect as well.

What I liked:
It’s a light read. That’s the thing I liked the most. You can read it quickly, like if you are having some time traveling back in the office cab or college bus perhaps. The plot and narration is simple, as is the English. It’s romantic but not to the point of being mushy or sickly sweet. The events seem understandable in the order, though sudden at times. And the cover design is quite simple as well.

What I didn’t like:
It seems filmy. Literally. I know we as authors are influenced by other authors and movies, but I could see some scenes right out of movies, and a line or two that’s quite similar to the dialogue in them. I didn’t like that part. There is nothing very “new” in the plot, we know or probably expect what will happen at the end.

Closing thoughts:
It’s a one-time read for me. Neither very excellent, nor close to mediocre. A light read that’s enjoyable.

Rating: 3 Stars

Book details:
Title: Someone Like You
Authors: Nikita Singh, Durjoy Datta
Genre: Fiction / Romance
ISBN: 978-0-143-41769-9
Publishers: Penguin Metro Reads
Price: INR. 140

Reviewed by: Leo
Shared with First Reads and IQRC

Sunday, March 24, 2013

F?@K KNOWS by Shailendra Singh


Author: Shailendra Singh
ISBN: 9788129123886
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Rupa
Number of Pages: 234
Genre: Non-Fiction / Self- help
Language: English
Price: Rs. 195 (I received my copy from

About the Book: 

What do you want from life? Are you on the right track? Are you truly happy? If your answer to these questions is ‘F?@k knows!’, then this book is for you. Find the answers to life’s most important questions with the help of uber-successful entrepreneur, Shailendra Singh, co-founder of Percept and inceptor of Sunburn. Told with sparkling, flavourful and in-your-face humour, this book will advise you on how to:

*Find yourself (Because you’re probably lost. Admit it.)
*Follow your heart (Because if you don’t then you’ll die unhappy, you stupid f?@ker.)
*Achieve your goals (You know you want to.)
*Live life like you give a f?@k (Because…why not?)

Candid and thoughtful, F?@k Knows will show you how to really live life on your own terms, to do what you want to do and not what you have to do just because your father said so!

Nimue Says :

I rarely pick self help books. I have read my share of books when in college and when I began working , and though I did not like many or could understand it all , the lessons make more sense now. Be it career , life , spirituality , relationships or other phase of life , there is always a book about it. I can recommend a few to some one who genuinely wants to read such books But I will think thrice before suggesting this one. and here is why :

I am not a fan of the word *fuck* ! however you write it , you will say it like that. And the maximum number of times i use this word is once a week to say "wtf"  ! And I do not know many people who say it either any more frequently.

I do not like anecdotes / incidents that refer to sex and related stuff. Neither do i gain any insight from such analogies .  Like the chapter : Orgasm as character study where the author tells about watching 2 of his friends having sex ( with some stranger ) and finding a character analogy based on way they f?@k. As much it is amusing as title , I was not impressed. This was not according to my taste. Plus , such mentions make sure I am not giving this book to anyone below 18.

The author did everything according to his dad , struggled to make an empire , earned millions , suffered a heart attack and that's when he realizes he has not actually lived his life. That he has been doing it all wrong. It happens. But any way you tell this story , It remains the same. The story ( or parts of it) are mentioned many times in the book which kind of become a contrast to the stuff you want or hope to gain from this book. If other's stories inspired , we don't need such books at all. We all need to be convinced that we can make our own success stories.

Having said this , I will still tell you to try this books for some parts like - "And then ? and then and then" ; "Few of my favorite things" ; The cheesecake experiment ( If that can keep few people away from casual sex) ; Mind as technology ; Stop thinking , start doing ..

The author has some really nice ideas and some easy to digest philosophies. Some of the analogies , the examples and the incidents he sketches in the book are funny and wise beyond my age for sure. He has a good flow in his narration and doesn't sound preachy but he does sound some one *trying* too hard to be casual. The overdose of F?@K as a verb ( or adverb) might put you off. Not to mention you can not pass this book to just anyone. Not to my bro or mother for sure I know.

Confession : I read 120+ pages complete and then 7-8 chapters in random but then I was turned off by the one of chapter. . And then I only finished the chapter name and the subtitles which are good enough to get the context and gyaan in straightforward manner.

I rate this 2.5/5

Swarnali Speaks :

I am not into non-fiction books, especially self help ones. Never been a fan of them. But when Shailendra Singh's  F?@K Knows came in for Blogadda's reviews, the title (very obviously) and the excerpt really intrigued me and I decided to give it a shot. Well, the book didn't change anything (if at all self help stuff are meant to do so) but reading it sure was fun.
For starters, the cover isn't quite interesting as I would have liked it. But the red lettering on the yellow cover pretty much stand out for themselves (the title is an attraction magnet in itself and instantly piques the readers' interest :P).Imagine my condition when I get the book from my dad who had opened the package and is handing me the book with a very curious and doubtful expression. :P
If you are somebody who is not comfortable using the "F" word or hearing people use it liberally, then you might consider staying away from it. The book is generously doused with the word and the author makes it a point that it serves the purpose it is being used for, to keep the readers' interest alive. Using expletives,simple words and a colloquial tone in the first person instantly draws the readers attention as the narrator takes them into his trust as he narrates his journey and how he failed and then succeeded. 
Listening to somebody's real story is more believable than hear people preaching about things. I think that is what makes this book different. The author does not tell you anything more than what you might already know. But it is the presentation of the book, the narration that makes the read really enjoyable. The tongue in cheek humor coupled with witty refrains and epigrams are what make the book.
The ideas get a little repetitive after a while but I think it is because the author does it to drive the idea deeper into the readers head (remember the repetitive lines of nursery rhymes? the author does the same here, in a funnier manner). The book might not transform you view of the world or switch on that bulb in your head (like those Mentos ads say "dimag ki batti jala de") but it sure will keep you entertained as you flip through the pages.

Rating : 3/5

This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program. for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Who will cry when you die? by Robin Sharma

About the author:
Robin Sharma is one of the world’s most highly respected leadership experts. He is devoted the mission of helping organizations to develop people who “lead without a title” so that they win in period of intense change. His books such as “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” and “The Greatness Guide” have topped bestseller charts across the globe.

My thoughts on the book:
I sometimes think “self-help” books aren’t that necessary. After all, we are the ones who have to help ourselves, right? But there are times when a little push is needed. Times when we question about why we exist and what the meaning of life is. I think this is a book to give that push.

“When you were born, you cried while the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cries while you rejoice.” – I think the book is somewhat built around that.

What I liked:
Like I said earlier, this is a book to give a push when you need to regain some perspective on life, in those times when you question if it has one. You could say this is the 101 on life. Some things I liked are:

  1. Connect with nature: It says to go out of just admiring nature from an image on the computer and admire nature where it is.
  2. Discover your calling: Do what you love to do and what you are meant to pursue.
  3. Live a life: Forget judging each day as good or bad, just live it.

What I didn’t like:
It’s preachy. Do this, and do that. Kind of like a checklist to happiness. But life doesn’t quite work that way does it? Read it when you are feeling low and you get a push, but if you read it and try to contemplate if you are going that way, you’ll just end up doubting yourself more.

Closing thoughts:
It’s a book to get you a little motivated when you are feeling down, and not a checklist to happiness. 

Rating: 3 on 5

Book details:
Title: Who will cry when you die?
Author: Robin Sharma
ISBN: 9788179922323
Genre: Non-fiction/Self-help
Publishers: Jaico books
Price: Rs. 175

Reviewed by: Leo
Also shared with: First Reads & IQRC.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shades of Life - Vasundhara Ramanujan, Mohd. Akmal

About the authors:
Vasundhara retired as secretary general of Mumbai-based Media Research Users Council. She and her husband Srinivas live in Dubai. They have two sons. Mohammad Akmal is a professor of medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine and has directed its dialysis program for more than twenty-five years.

My thoughts on the book:
This book, a non-fiction, is the recollections of the journey taken by a family after one of them was diagnosed with kidney disease. To have a feeling that that might be the problem and then hearing it is one thing, but going to the doctor for a persistent headache and finding out that the matter is something completely different is another. The settled family rises up to help the son, Aditya, fight against the odds. The author Vasundhara, the mother donates her own kidney to him while fighting a disease herself. And their efforts are fruitful as Aditya survives and goes on to get his PhD. For me, the afterword by Srinivas Raghavan was quite touching. He tells us acceptance is a big part in fighting any disease. Consistent negligence is a cause for harsh steps, but though we may not be able to forget the slightest mistake when it comes to our loved ones, we also have to accept that even doctors are human beings. It is God’s will as well what may or may not happen. I rate this 4/5, and feel that it is a book worth reading.

Book details:
Title: Shades of Life
Author: Vasundhara Ramanujan, Mohammed Akmal
ISBN: 9789381626559
Genre: Non-fiction/Motivational
Publishers: Westland
Price: Rs. 195

Reviewed by Leo
Also shared with: First Reads and IQRC.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Professional Grievers- Mickey J Corrigan

Until he gets hired to attend funerals for Florida's most unpopular dead people, Seymour Allen has no life. When he meets a mobster's gorgeous girlfriend, things begin to heat up.
They say opposites attract. Professional Grievers mates noir with romance, a beautiful young woman with a depressed older man, and humor with pathos to create a surprising, funny, sexy little love story.
Seymour Allen's life had ground down to a dull bore. Lonely, self-medicating, and wallowing in self-pity, he's in dire need of a stiletto kick in the butt. Then the weirdly generous Raymond C. Dasher hires Seymour to attend the death ceremonies of the not-so-dearly departed. As Raymond explains to Seymour, some people have so few friends they are willing to hire an audience for their own funeral. 

Working as a professional griever, Seymour's life picks up. Fascinated and often moved to tears, he frequents local chapels and cemeteries, posing as a bereaved friend of the departed. At an Irish wake, he meets a hot redhead named Yvonne, the former mistress of the deceased; a man with the most dangerous kind of family. Sexy Yvonne needs to grieve her loss and Seymour offers a padded shoulder to cry on. Soon enough their friendship steams up. 
You're only as old as you feel, and Seymour feels like a million bucks around Yvonne. Are his feelings for Yvonne enough to give him the jolt he needs to jump-start his life?
Professional Grievers is a unique, quirky romance presenting the upside of funerals and a hopeful, tender look at second chances.

Maithili Speaks:
The plot was new. Professional Grievers Inc recruit people who turn up at less attended funerals. The book at some point tried to convey how life is increasingly becoming more about money and how the final goodbye too has become a show of money. If there are really very few people who mourn your death,courtesy you being too busy minting money, you can always pass away as being popular by hiring people to grieve. 
The book tries to touch and incorporate too many ideas which are just touched upon in its course. While I was reading I always had this feeling that there is more to follow but sadly it never happened. The novella, being itself a complete story, could have done with lesser ideas. It ended up appearing like a preview of a novel. 
A few ideas about death and facing it, erotica of an older man and his younger dead girlfriend, gangster mob (which hardly featured in the book) and second romance of Seymour with the partner of a dead gangster were briefly touched and missed! 

Rating: 0.5/5
You expect  a novella to be complete in itself without looking like excerpts of a novel. Which is precisely what the book missed.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Belated Birthday Wishes - Arpita

So as it is, we forgot to wish our dearest Arpi on her birthday which went by yesterday 
I know I forgot too....Sorry, hon 
But as they say, better late than never

Happy Happy Wala 22nd , Love!!


Tonnes of books 
Plenty of cakes and treats   
Endless Booze (or if you prefer, mojitos and mocktails)  
Great Grades in exams   
and loads and loads of love from all  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Oath of Vayuputras by Amish Tripathi


Shiva is gathering his forces. He reaches the Naga capital, Panchavati, and Evil is finally revealed. The Neelkanth prepares for a holy war against his true enemy, a man whose name instils dread in the fiercest of warriors. 

India convulses under the onslaught of a series of brutal battles. It's a war for the very soul of the nation. Many will die. But Shiva must not fail, no matter what the cost. In his desperation, he reaches out to the ones who have never offered any help to him: the Vayuputras. 

Will he succeed? And what will be the real cost of battling Evil? To India? And to Shiva's soul? 

When I read the first book of the triology , I was impressed not just with the writing and plot , but more so by the very fact that God's story was presented in such fictionalized way. No wonder , I loved the book. Book#2 was gifted to me by my roomie on birthday and it was a wonderful read too. The book#3 came after a wait of about 15 months. When one has to wait so much for a book, you can imagine the expectations from the book. In some ways, I think this book suffered ( If at all it will ) from expectation of readers like me.

The biggest drawback of the book is that the "evil" is revealed to the reader quite early in the book. After that , even the people protecting this evil and the person guiding them too become known. After that , you know that soon the war would be inevitable. And so begins the armies' movements , division of loyalties, test of character and patience of one and all involved. 

I will not discredit the book this soon though. The writing is fluent and one can read non-stop provided you are totally free. But I was not enthusiastic as such to finish it.   There are certain part of the story that are more brilliant than the rest , but those are bit apart. The consistent perfection in the first book is missing. The war techniques and the description of those are written good but I am not the kind to enjoy them if they are too many.  I loved Sati the most in this book. Shiva being the God , the angry God as we know it is justified but I do not accept the climax.  Ganesha and Kali were good but Kartik ?? That kid has more coverage than most people.

And should I mention that Amish hints on writing again , another story on Mahabharata ??

I dunno why the book so much feels like written too long and there are parts that certainly are not necessary. And lastly , why this title ?? Vayuputras did not even take part in the war directly. 

This book was kind of let down for me.

Rating : 3/5

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nine Princes in Amber - Roger Zelazny


Book 1 of "Amber : The Corwin Cycle"

ISBN -  9780380014309
PAGES - 175
GENRE - Fantasy
BINDING - Paperback

AUTHOR - Roger Zelazny

SYNOPSIS - Amber, the one real world, wherein all others, including our own Earth, are but Shadows. Amber burns in Corwin's blood. Exiled on Shadow Earth for centuries, the prince is about to return to Amber to make a mad and desperate rush upon the throne. From Arden to the blood-slippery Stairway into the Sea, the air is electrified with the powers of Eric, Random, Bleys, Caine, and all the princes of Amber whom Corwin must overcome. Yet, his savage path is blocked and guarded by eerie structures beyond imagining; impossible realities forged by demonic assassins and staggering horrors to challenge the might of Corwin's superhuman fury.

FL Speak - I picked up Roger Zelazny as the author of the month for my own fantasy challenge at Goodreads. Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles are marked as classics and it wouldn't be fair to my conscience if I never read him. There is always that feeling in your gut when you pick up a new author. New doesn't mean a recently-turned author, new here means someone you've never read before, no matter how many people orgasm at his works. 

Nine Princes in Amber didn't disappoint. Before you fantasy maniacs go into hyperventilation, let me just clear it out. No, it isn't huge. There won't be a million words crammed inside the paperback. And no, there aren't multiple POV's like the one's you loved at ASoIaF, WOT and Malazan. There isn't any complex magical system like those of Sanderson and Weeks, although whatever this book has is good, even mind boggling at parts.

So as you can see, its a fairly simple book, with a single POV, a single, straight storyline, with less than 200 pages and some simply awesome writing. Corwin is a Prince of Amber. What the hell is Amber, no one knows, not even Corwin, atleast till the first few pages. Corwin wakes up with amnesia after a crash and follows leads to wherever he could find. He wakes up in a hospital somewhere in the middle of London. Luck and craftiness brings him to the doors of the woman who admitted him to the hospital. A woman like no other, a woman whose best interests lies with the one with power, in this case, the person who tried to kill Corwin. The woman is Corwin's sister.

As memories slowly fill the gap in his mind, Corwin realizes who he is. There is a war coming and everyone wants to rule Amber. And Roger Zelazny hits the sweet spot when he shows that you cannot trust your relatives. But sometimes alliances are necessary. Corwin manages to persuade two of his brothers to ally with him against Eric, the brother who is determined to rule Amber, the brother who tried to kill Corwin. But every one of them has their own wishes, own desires and no one wants the other to succeed to the throne.

What is Amber, you might ask. Amber is the one true city. Sprawling buildings, magnificent structures and powerful people, Amber is the only real city. Everything else is a shadow world, a faint and partial reflection of Amber, including our dear old Earth. All roads leads to Amber. For the blood, i.e the Princes and Princesses of Amber,  travelling to the one true city is not too hard. I honestly cannot explain it here, its all in my head and only I can make sense to myself.

So yeah, that's the deal. Corwin and his brother, Bleys attack Eric. What follows is a nightmare.

My Rating - 4/5 stars

P.S| for just above 1000 INR, you can get the entire 10 book saga. Go for it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fragments by Nimue

About the author:
Nimue is the author of the blog “Pages from my mind” and she’s the vice-principal of a quite hectic school of review bloggers called “A Lot of Pages” (this blog, just in case you missed the title). She’s a fun-to-be-with, talkative, friendly, smiling gal with an appetite for reading books and a talent for writing poetry. “Fragments” is her debut collection of poetry.

My thoughts on the book:
She says the book is the musings of a broken heart, mending the same with poetry. I can’t think of a better way to summarize the book actually. This is poetry to touch the heart, since it is penned from her heart. Nimue was one of the first people I ever met on blogsville, and her poetry has been quite revealing and inspiring since then, even on my own journey as a poet. (I think I’ve told her that, but if not, here it is!)

Some of her poems, you know, make me feel like I can be in those shoes and understand that. It’s like she’s written one of my thoughts, like we share that thought. I quote from one of her poems there titled Nightmare: “People most times, promise to stay, yet are gone”. I can feel that. I have been one who has had it both ways. I’ve promised to stay and then gone, and I’ve been promised and the promise broken. It ain’t the best of feelings I can tell you that. The poem after that is titled Broken Dreams, and that one to me defines the book. Life goes on, and we have to understand that. This poem has the healing words I feel: “I clear the way for a new and happy tomorrow.” Another favorite of mine is the poem on secrets.

I’m also given a big smile by some of her descriptions before the poem. The one for the poem titled Home for e.g.: “Home is not the measured space, the color of walls, the dark and dusty corners or the smell of the cleaning liquid you use for floors. It sometimes is just the memory you create there.” Yeah, that’s home to me alright! The poem that follows quite leaves me wonderstruck (her poems have that quality).

What I liked:
The cover, so simple yet alluring, in that orange that is so vibrant yet calming like the setting sun on the seaside, I adore that. I just wish the poetess’ name was on it too you know. The poems are something I could understand (well, mostly I guess, though how I interpret and what she means might be totally different things!) and I loved them. The explanation brings that personal touch to it.

What I didn’t like:
Well, I didn’t like that the poetess’ name isn’t on the cover! That was needed. And also, some poems I wished that they had a title.

Closing thoughts:
A collection of poetry to let you ponder, and then make you voice along with it. Nothing complex, all simple in creation. I do wish there was a Hindi poem there with its translation. A collection by Nimue sorta seems incomplete without that trademark! If your poem was supposed to be marked by my (reader’s) breath, I think that may have happened, coz I’m quite out of breath after!

Rating: 9 on 10

Book details:
Title: Fragments
Author: Nimue
Genre: Poetry
Type: Kindle e-Book
Price: INR 80
Pages: 57

Reviewed by Leo
Also shared with IQRC and First Reads challenge.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dawnthief - James Barclay


Book 1 of Chronicles of the Raven

ISBN - 978-0-575-07534-4
PAGES - 532
GENRE - Fantasy
BINDING - Paperback

AUTHOR - James Barclay

SYNOPSIS - The Raven have fought together for years, six men and an elf carving out a living as swords for hire in the war that has torn Balaia apart, loyal only to themselves and their code. But when they agree to escort a Xesteskian mage on a secret mission they are pulled into a world of politics and ancients secrets. For the first time The Raven cannot trust even their own strength and prowess, for the first time their code is in doubt. How is it that they are fighting for one of the most evil colleges of magic known? Searching for the secret location of Dawnthief; a spell that could end the world? Aiming not to destroy it but to cast it . . . DAWNTHIEF is a fast paced epic about a band of all-too-human heroes.

FL Speak - Ever since I read "The Ascendants of Estoria", I wanted to read James Barclay again. And that was almost 4 years ago. With names of books like Dawnthief, Noonshade, Nightchild and their classy covers, I admit I wanted them very bad. Alas, previous commitments stood on the way.

But when I found the entire trilogy at 70 percent off on a recent Landmark store, I dropped everything. Literally. Dropped every damn book I was holding and got myself this wonderful trilogy.

The Raven. 6 men and an elf. Mercenaries/soldiers/guards/scouts for hire. The Raven are the only other military unit I absolutely fell in love with after the Bridgeburners. And therein lies the catch. I keep forgetting that I should fall in love with characters. 150 pages into the book, 3 of the Raven are dead. Surprisingly fast, since they keep saying that there had been only 2 deaths in the last 10 years. If their deaths brought grief, then the bond of the survivors gave me hope. It brought me even closer to them, as stupid it may sound.

The book starts devastatingly well. A siege at Taranspike Castle, which the Raven are defending. The first casualty amongst the Raven take place here when Ras, one of them, is dead under the hands of an enemy mage, Denser, from the College of Xetesk. And what follows next is sheer impossibility. They meet a Dragon from another dimesion.

Despite the death of one their own by the hands of Denser, the Raven reluctantly work for him for a huge deal of money. Little did they knew that the fate of the world rested on the shoulders of Denser. For the Wytch Lords have escaped their mana prison and their magic gave enough power to the magic-weilding Shamen to lead the thousands of Wesmen over Balaia. And if the Wesmen are not stopped, Balaia will burn. But not even the combined power of the four Colleges of Magic was enough to stop the threat of the Wytch Lords. And so the College of Xetesk sends Denser, to cast a spell that legendary mage Septern created, to nullify the threat of the Wytch Lords for once and for all. But the spell Dawnthief is no ordinary spell and it could sunder Balaia apart if it is not cast properly. 

James Barclay doesn't shy away from killing characters off. Even if they happen to be the main ones. In a sword and sorcery novels, you can expect anyone to be killed, even in a drunken brawl at the inn. And Barclay does complete justice even though I couldn't help wincing every time the Raven got diminished by one. What makes the book even more enjoyable is that it isn't just go do-it-yourself and save-the-world book. But it is still that. Dawnthief could've been easily cast if not for the enmities between the four colleges of magic. And by the time they realize the threat of the Wytch Lords, the Wesmen are hanging around in their backyard chanting war cries.

The four colleges of Magic eventually do realize that Dawnthief might be the only answer to their predicament, even if it rips apart the world. And the task falls upon the Raven. The Raven, who're known throughout the world for their code of conduct. The Raven are feared and respected and they're known to finish the job once they accept it. But if Denser thought that he could use the Raven according to his wish, he was dead wrong. The Raven might get the job done, but they do it their way. Their is an unflinching faith and loyalty among the Raven brethren. You find yourself cheering for Hirad and the Unknown and Ilkar as they prepare themselves for battle. You wish you were a part of them.

Dawnthief is full of action and sorcery. It has multiple plots and it feels frighteningly real. At no point, you feel as if you're reading something that's bigger than life. The characters are flawed, they're loveable, they make mistakes and they try with all their hearts to save the damn world.

Dawnthief is an experience. A wonderful, fast-paced adventure. It is also a bloody complex spell.

My Rating  - 4/5 stars

PRICE - INR 350/- 

When The Signal Turns Red - Jayanand Ukey

This is an author requested review.

About the author:
Jayanand Ukey works for an IT company and is also a freelance journalist and blogger. This book is his first published work.

The story in a nutshell:
“A global ordeal, a couple in distress, a struggle to keep afloat, prudent thinking in tumultuous times”… well, that’s how the author begins the blurb at the back.

The plot revolves around Girish and Prajakta, who are in love and just out of college. Both of them have got placed in big IT companies and are looking to settle into their jobs before breaking the news to their parents. However, the parents come to know of their relationship somehow and both of them have to think on their feet to make the parents meet and convince them to agree to their marriage. When their life seems back on track, fate intervenes and they’re split. The story afterward looks at their struggle to make their love a success.

What I loved:
There isn’t anything complex in the plot. It’s a simple love story, and a light read that you can get through easily in a couple of hours maybe three tops. It makes a good book for reading during travel, which is what I did, as I finished the read on the way back from work. The author being part of the software industry might know of the aftermath of the receding economy on the industry, and this has come out well in the story. (I still can’t forget my own experience of that… brr!) Even the first dreams of the future after the campus recruitment of the protagonist Girish is quite nicely thought of.

What I felt lacked:
On the whole, the plot feels very filmy. To a large extent, it is very predictable too. Couple in love, parents against it, then for it, then when the tide turns, they go against it again, a villain enters the scene, the hero starts to fight for his love… it leaves me kind of flat. Maybe it isn’t the plot, but the pace. Everything seems to be zooming. The guy and gal are already in love to begin with, and then circumstances make their plans for marriage to speed up even more. The “how they fell so deeply in love with each other” aspect doesn’t seem to have gotten that much attention. A lot of thought is there in the book… I mean the repetition of these phrases… “he thought” “she thought” “this came to mind”. There aren’t characters from outside the two families and the “villain” family. I felt there were many typos or other errors spread throughout the book, some of which come at points that where the pace of the narration is just beginning to develop so it becomes more noticeable. Though the story is also about the couple’s fight against the economy, there is a lot more description of that than is actually necessary. The ending part I feel is very hurriedly written, and somehow didn’t quite hold water. It was a terse and abrupt conclusion, as if the author just wanted to get it over with, and took the short way home. I also feel “When the signal turns red” to be an odd title choice, when the signal incident comes just once in the story and nothing very significant happens at that point of time. There is no metaphoric link to the story that I could find either. When the signal turned red, I felt like stopping to read.

Overall thoughts:
A light read, perfect for reading if you have to travel for an hour or two. Nothing too complicated to understand in language and plotting, the former being a positive point and the latter a mix of both, since we’re left a little flustered at the very quick pace and hurried ending.

Rating: 4.5 on 10

Book details:
Title: When the Signal turns Red
Author: Jayanand Ukey
ISBN: 978-81-8046-085-2
Genre: Romance/Love
Publishers: Alchemy
Price: Rs. 175

Reviewed by Leo
Shared with: First Reads & Indian Quills Reading Challenges

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Chosen One - Fritz Franke

Reading something of your own volition and reading something someone wants you to read are both very different. And in this case, really special. Because the author himself wants you to read his book. Apart from all the excited hyperventilation of talking to a real, honest-to-goodness published author, I was really happy (and worried!) about this assignment. Doing justice to someone’s baby is something you want to handle like a boa constrictor. Really carefully. And I do hope I've done it well!

Friday, March 1, 2013

A River Sutra

Author: Gita Mehta
Binding: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9780140233056
Publisher: Penguin India
Number of pages: 282
Price: 299
Copy Source: Own
Rating: 4/5

The good/bad invention/addiction that is Twitter is perhaps the single most influential sphere of my adult life. I've made and parted with friends here, built some real and imaginary relationships, had some genuine camaraderie unnecessary fights; I've generally allowed it to dictate big chunks of my emotional life. For me, Twitter is as real as virtual life can get. Of the most dear people I've met here is @scrollsnink or Reema. I've never met her in real life, but I can claim to love her as I would a sister. It is she who gifted me 'A River Sutra' by Gita Mehta, and I owe her big time for this one.

When Reema sent me this book, I was unimpressed with the aesthetics of the cover. It seemed mystifying, but not enough for me to pick it up immediately. After months, when all my 'review' books were finally done with, I sat down with 'A River Sutra', and it wouldn't be exaggeration to say that I drowned immediately. I realised within a few pages what The Illustrated Weekly of India meant when it said 'A River Sutra is a seminal book' (as quoted on the cover).

Page after page I wondered why the Amishs and Chetan Bhagats of the world have gotten popular and why a book like 'A River Sutra' hasn't enjoyed its deserving share of accolades. The book is a collection of stories - the monk's, the teacher's, the executive's, the courtesan's, the musician's, and the minstrel's - interlinked by the retired government official's, who acts as the sutradhar. The stories are all based along the banks of the Narmada, bringing alive its many myths and legends, coloured through the lenses of human emotion and experience. Each story is poignant, absorbing and with a magical quality to it. They are all tales of human transformation from the physical to the metaphysical, just like deliverance through the sacredness of the river Narmada.

Mehta's genius shines through in every story - both as a short story writer and a novelist. The vivid, human and completely believable protagonist of every story illustrates the writer's masterful character sketching, and one is led on rapid journeys one after the other. Whether it is the executive's bored life in the city followed by a mysterious encounter with a tribal woman, or the courtesan's tryst with a notorious bandit, each tale not
just involves the reader, but inundates him, washes him away like the swollen waters of the Narmada. Mehta writes lyrical prose and often quotes the most beautiful couplets from famous works, ranging from Rumi to Shankaracharya. She writes with the kind of simplicity only possible for geniuses, yet never compromising on her artistry. The musician's story, in particular, pierced my heart with an intensity I've not encountered in literature often. Her knowledge of the Narmada myths, Indian culture and music come through without ever sounding pedantic.

Gita Mehta has easily become one of my favourite Indian English authors, and I can place her among the ranks of Anita Desai. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in contemporary Indian fiction in all its beauty.


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