Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bonded by Nicky Charles

Reno’s a tough Enforcer for Lycan Link who finds himself drawn to Brandi but duty rules his life. Brandi, just on the edge of starting her career as a Disaster Control officer, falls for Reno at first sight, but are they really meant to be? Is it love or lust and does it really even matter? Enforcers and DCs don't get along...unless fate forces them to.

Nicky Charles started the "Law of Lycan" Series with the book - The Mating( Book#1). Bonded , though was written after book#1 , is set in a time line before that of Mating. Hence this is called book#0.5.

I always like to read of societies that describe non-human creatures and their ways. I am glad I got to read this series in the correct order, 'cause this is probably lot better than book#1.

The book describes the set up of packs , the rules , the members and their stature in each pack ,the tensions hovering over the werewolf community and the regulating bodies.

I really like the roles of both enforcers and DC ( Disaster control) and once you read about them , you know they are going to be always  on opposite ways of getting things done. That makes an interesting love plot between Reno and Brandi , but also it gets a little irritating at times.

Still , the story has a good pace , a lot of good action scenes and the character development is good. The book is all about two strong personalities coming to term with their own inhibitions and how every one working for good is neither always right , nor always wrong. 

The sex is a bit too much for my taste and the editing could have gotten rid of some more details , per me. 

Overall a good fast read.

Rating : 2.75/5

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Shadow Throne by Aroon Raman

Title-The Shadow Throne
Author-Aroon Raman
Published by-Pan Macmillan India
Price-250 INR
Source-Review Copy (from the Author)
   The Indian writing in English is going through an interesting phase now.The ChetanBhagat-AmitTripathi-AswinSanghi effect in the Indian publishing industry has paved the way for an era where there are more writers than ‘actual readers’!Many techies and management professionals turned writers overnight and as a result the market got flooded with a lot of paperbacks written by first timers. Being a blogger,I have had the previlege to review quite a number of works by these new gen debutant writers and I must admit that atleast half of them(which I have reviewed) were nothing but junk.So when this book(again, by a debutant ) came for review my expectations were quite low.After having gone through this book,I should say that I’m really glad for having taken this book up for review for it turned out to be a brilliant page turner.

The Plot-A mysterious looking Asian is murdered at the Qutab Minar.The officer in charge(Inspector Syed Ali Hassan) of the investigation calls upon his close friend Chandrasekhar,an ace journalist to have a look at the crime scene.Joining them is Meenakshi,a history professor and scholar.With her help they come to the conclusion that the victim was a member of an extinct cult sect.What began as a murder enquiry soon becomes a game of hide- and- seek within the shadowy world of Pakisthan’s ISI and India’s RAW.Played out in India,Pakisthan and Afghanisthan -‘The Shadow Throne’ is a no-nonsense, edge- of the- seat thriller which is chillingly believable.

The writing-The language is pretty simple and the narrative quite smooth.Though the writer’s efforts in evoking patriotic feelings in the reader remains mostly un successful he should be lauded for not making those attempts look silly or jingoistic.The book is fast paced and there are ample twists and turns which ensures that the reader is never bored.The climax suspence is nothing but terrific and I’ll be lying if I say that I had seen it coming.The Tom-Clancy/Dan Brown influence is particularly evident at times but you can’t really consider it a negative because the story which Aroon Raman wants to tell us is very much genuine and most importantly-distinctly desi.

The Characters-Chandra/Chandrasekhar,the big boned,baby faced journo(who resembles Rishi Kapoor in the film Bobby) who is still to recover from the loss of his beloved wife Yamini is the principal character of ‘Shadow Throne’.MeenakshiPirzada(a history professor and Chandrasekhar’s friend),Inspector Syed Hassan are the other integral characters in the story.One thing which I particularly liked about Raman’s characters is that they are never too Bollywoodish andthey behave like ‘normal’ human beings
for the most part.For example,at some point in the book Chandra says he was half expecting a James Bond like figure but was surprised when he realised that the ISI agent was actually a pot bellied man who could have been easily passed off as an ordinary Government servant!It’s instances like these which makes Aroon’s characters believable and tangible. On the downside,some of the peripheral characters seemed not well etched out.

1.Plot-Thrillers dealing with terrorism and Jihad have always been the bread and butter of commercial fiction writers .Even In India we have had quite a number of books belonging to the genre(ShashiWarrier’s ‘Sniper’,Mukul Deva’s ‘Lashkar’ being the first ones to come to my mind).But the basic problemwith most of the Indian works is their predictability.‘The Shadow throne’ was quite a heavy subject for a first time author.What makes it different from the other assembly line thrillers is that it deals with an hitherto un explored angle also(read RAW/ISI/Nuclear War).The central theme of the book called for a good amount of research and tremendous patience from the part of the author.I’m happy that Aroon Raman could do full justice to it.Though the reader is bombarded with a lot of facts and historical details in quick succession, Raman tries his best not to overburden him with too much of them.For instance,the portions related to the ‘Hazaras’ are written extremely well.
2.Execution-One of the biggest positives of this book is Aroon Raman’s writing style.As I had said earlier there are a lot of scientific facts/historical-political events mentioned in the book.The book also dabbles with themes like the Indo-Pak relations,conspiracytheories,ISI-RAW,the Kushas- to name a few. Basically there was every reason for the normal reader to get confused or irritated with  excess of these facts/details .But it’s the author’s writing style and his uncanny knack of explaining the most complicated of things in the simplest manner that saves the day.
3.The Cover Design-Well,it was pretty cool!
4.The Pricing-Modestly priced at 250 INR,this book has got the potential to become a very big commercial success(the cover tells me that it has already become a National Best seller!).It’s racy,interesting and most importantly affordable for the middle class Indian reader.
5.The length-Aroon Raman doesn’t drag things un-necessarily and it’s pretty evident that he is intelligent enough to know where to stop.’The Shadow Throne’ is not a very lengthy one and you can easily finish reading it in one sitting.The Font Size is also optimum(neither too small nor too large) which means you don’t have to strain your eyes much while reading the book.  

1.Unconvincing Situations-Some of the scenes and situations in the story looked half-baked and unconvincing.Especially the events leading to Chandrasekhar’s association with Gul Mohammed and the ISI looked rather amateurishly written.
 2.Cliches and abrupt ending-The book isn’t entirely devoid of clichés.Likewise,I felt that the ending was also a bit abrupt.
3.The action sequences-Well,this is strictly a personal opinion.I think the action sequences were strictly average.May be a little more detailing could have been done here.
Verdict-'The Shadow Throne' by Aroon Raman is a racy thriller.It has got a decent plot which is executed in a highly competent manner.I hope Raman’s next book will also be as good as his debut work.Rating-3.2/5

PS- Aroon Raman’s next work is getting released this December.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Baramulla Bomber by Clark Prasad

Book Cover
Title-Baramulla Bomber
Author-Suraj Prasad(Clark Prasad)
Published by-Niyogi Books
Price-395 INR
Source-Review Copy sent via Tales Pensieve

Tauted as a science fiction espionage thriller,Baramulla Bomber is Pharmacist- Turned-Author Suraj Prasad aka Clark Prasad’s first published Novel.It’s also the first book of the Svastik Trilogy.

The Plot-Frankly speaking,the story line of this book is pretty complicated.Moreover,the book also comes with a ‘warning’ and a ‘request’(believe me,it’s right there in the third page of the book!),urging the reviewers not to divulge the plot details of the book which can act as spoilers for potential readers.Anyways,I’ll try to make this as spoiler free as possible.The basic thread is something like this.Mansur Haider is an aspiring cricketer from Kashmir.Multiple intelligence agencies are tracking him.His girl friend is trying to locate her friends who went missing after an earthquake.There is the Sweedish Intelligence officer,Adolf who is investigating both these cases.Meanwhile there is also a powerful ancient weapon which is going to be unleashed on to the world.There are numerous sub plots also which are intended to spice up the proceedings.

The writing-The English is pretty basic which is now a norm for the ‘desi-thrillers’.There aren't many bland,purposeless,over long descriptions in the book which is a welcome relief.The narrative flows smoothly for most part.There aren’t many typos or grammatical errors in the book which itself is a great thing considering that this book is brought out by a relatively small/independent Indian publishing house.(I’m sorry to say this but I must admit that of late, I have been reviewing quite a number of desi English books which are ridden with innumerable typos and grammatically incorrect sentences,majority of them released by small time publishers )

The Characters- The protagonists are not only well etched out but their deeds are also more believable and convincing.Though the book has got quite a number of characters,the author has made sure that none of them go un- noticed .Be it Haider,the Kashmiri cricketer who has got big dreams or Abhimanyu Kashyap,the man with the big ‘secret’ or the Home Minister(Agasthya Rathore) with Sinister plans,all are three dimensional characters who are integral parts of the story.

1.Originality-Full marks to the author for trying something that is daringly distinct and strikingly original.I don’t think many science fiction spy thrillers set in India have come out till date.Baramulla Bomber is just that and is quite a decent one at that!  
2.Well Researched,decently executed-The author has put in a lot of effort in getting his facts right.Since the book has references to real life incidents,history and sects,even a small inaccuracy/goof up from the part of the author might have resulted in the whole effort ending up as an amateurish,laughable attempt.Hats off to the author for his hard work.Besides, Prasad has also put across some really nice thoughts which is relevant in modern times.
3.The Cover design-It’s said that you should never judge a book by it’s cover.But nothing can do more good to a book than an awesomely designed cover page.I absolutely loved the cover design of this book and believe it’s really cool!What do you think?
 4.Informative!-Reading this book was also a learning experience for me.I could get to know about a lot of scientific facts/historical events through the book.But again,too much of anything is not a good thing, na?

1.The Writing style-Clark Prasad’s writing style may not be liked by many.Though the author tries his best to keep the author hooked to the proceedings,his self  indulgence and over- detailing plays the spoilsport at times.The pacing,I feel is also a bit uneven.
2.It’s Confusing!-The initial portions of the book is confusing,to say the least.The reader is bombarded with a lot of information/historical facts at one go which may irritate even the most patient reader.As far as I am concerned,the most important part of any novel/work of fiction is it’s first half (i.e,the first 75-100 pages or so)If the book doesn’t engage or interest me even during the start,there is a high chance of me putting it down.I fear the confusing first half of the book will have the same effect on atleast a few readers.
3.Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth!-The main problem with this book is the writer’s over enthusiasm to pack in a lot of things in the same story.Suraj has tried to link too many true events/historical incidents ,mix it with ancient weapons,Vedas,Bible,QuantumPhysics,Politics,China,Pakisthan,Cricket,Kashmir,aliens(!) and as a result is unable to do full justice to any.Agreed,he has got a really creative mind which is pretty evident in his work.But why burden the reader with too much of information?
4.It’s not an easy read!-Okay,I don’t know whether that can really be termed a ‘negative’ but one thing is sure- if you are looking for a light/breezy read,this work is definitely not your cup of tea.Well,the problem is-‘Baramulla Bomber’ is no literary marvel either!
5.It’s lengthy!-The book is a bit lengthy.It’s not that I have any issues with lengthy or ‘big’ books.What is the point in stretching a story un- necessarily if it’s boring the reader in between?
6.Loose Ends-The plot has a good number of loose ends.Many things remain unexplained even at the end.I hope the author will clarify those things in the second instalment!
7.The Climax-Agreed,the book is a suspense thriller which has got interesting twists and an unexpected ending.But the big question is,does the suspense satisfy you?To be honest,I must say it’s underwhelming-especially the part related to Mansur Haider.

Verdict-Baramulla Bomber by Clark Prasad is a decent thriller.You may either enjoy it thoroughly or put it down mid way because of it’s ‘confusing plot’.I am giving it a 2.9 out of 5.A little bit of editing would have made it a brilliant page turner. Rating-2.9/5

PS-Meanwhile,You can check out this post!

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on">The Tales Pensieve

Thursday, December 12, 2013

kabuko the djinn by Hamraz Ahsan

This was quite an unusual story for me to begin with. i have read another short story on a djinn long back and had a vague idea what they can do or why they interact with human world. But frankly , this was like a portal to the world that exists and yet you never even get a glimpse of it in your life time. 

The story follows the life of kabuko djinn who has an unusual desire to learn about humans and all their mysterious ways not just by observation or by posession but by actually dwelling inside a human body, next to the soul and all spirits that exist within us.

The book follows his journey from the moment he decides to embark on his journey , his preparations , his persistence , the failures and finally his moment of joy when he finds for himself the perfect family and the boy to be associated with.

In many ways , it reminded me of of a stubborn person who doesnt know what his decision will lead him to but is still so sure to go to any length to see his idea take a shape.
Kabuko is both naive and wise at the same time.

He learns from ajee's life not just about human life but also enriches it with many experiencesjust by his curiosity. 

The people they come across , the experiences , the tales , the mystical events and the changes it brings to oth their life makes an amusing read.  Though a few things may sound unclear or too much of an imagination , but it doesn't need one to be too critical of the book 'cause i beleive that the whole notion of djinns is quite a fanciful one.

overall , this is a fast engaging read ; with some very interesting chapters and a little sad end for kabuko. 

Yes , i felt sad for him and hoped his journey was rewarding for him.

Rating 4/5

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bala Takes The Plunge by Melvin Durai

Title-Bala takes the Plunge
Author-Melvin Durai
Price- 195 INR
source-Review Copy sent by the Author

             The Chetan Bhagat effect in the Indian publishing industry is undeniable.He inspired quite a number of men and women to write on ‘the young urban educated Indian’ in simple(often plain) language. Even the international publishing giant,Penguin started a new line of low prized books,aimed solely at the masses(or the ‘new readers’). Most of the popular bloggers(Amit Verma,Sidin Vadukut,Arnab Ray,Meenakshy Reddy Madhavan et al) turned authors overnight evoking mixed responses.As Mr Surender Mohan Pathak, the grandmaster of Hindi crime fiction rightly said in an interview ‘there is a Chetan Bhagat kind of book releasing every fifteen days,these days’.

             ‘Bala takes the plunge’ is humour columnist ‘Melvin Durai’s debut novel published by ‘Hachette india’.Prized at a modest 195 INR,this book has the potential to become the next ‘big thing’ in the so called ‘commercial fiction’ market provided it’s marketed well.

             Melvin’s prose is more like an ‘Anurag Mathur’ than a Chetan Bhagat.’Bala takes the plunge’ is the story of Balasubramanium,a middle class tamil boy who dreams of making tamil films and directing his favourite actor,Rajnikanth.After completing B.E. from Tiru Harischandran Institute of Technology(THIT),he ends up in the U.S. as the director of design at FlexIt Inc which makes exercise machines.Bala’s life in the U.S and his attempts to find a suitable match forms the rest of the (?)story.The plot and it’s treatment is quite similar to Anurag Mathur’s ‘The Inscrutable Americans’ which came out almost two decades ago.But still,’Bala takes the Plunge’ manages to raise a few laughs and that’s where Melvin Durai scores.Traces of black humour can also be seen in the flexerciser episode.

            The two scenes in the book which I liked the most were the one in which Bala joins the Sociable fun ride group(Melvin also manages to make a few statements here) and the one in which Bala names his dog America.

        On the downside,the book has cheesy lines in plenty,right from the very first page(‘’ ..the IIT where brainstorms were common than rainstorms..’’,’’I haven’t tried any cream in my life except ofcourse ice cream-,…’but if you asked me to name my favourite dish,I would have to say satellite dish’-*wtf!*).The chapter about the Matrimonial ads (chapter 10) was not that funny and something similar had been done in a funnier and much more effective manner by Arnab Ray in his book-‘May I hebb your Attention Pliss’(Harper Collins,2010)

        On the whole ,’Bala takes the Plunge’ is the kind of book which you can make use of on a boring Sunday afternoon.If you are not looking for a light read,please stay away from this one.

Verdict: Decent debut.Rating-3/5


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bankerupt By Ravi Subramanian

Author-Ravi Subramanian
Published by-Penguin India
Price-299 INR
Source-Review Copy sent by the author via Think Why Not

Hailed as the John Grisham of Banking by the Wall Strret Journal,Ravi Subramanian is the best selling author(and also one of the few Indian authors who write taut thrillers) of ‘The Incredible Banker’,’If God was a Banker’ and the ‘Bankster’,with all of them set in the backdrop of the banking industry.’Bankerupt’ is his latest book and I would like to thank the author for sending me a review copy of the book.

The Plot-Aditya Raisinghania is a high-flying Mumbai based investment banker who sets up a scam with the help of his friend-turned-Client,Shivinder which eventually results in his downfall.Meanwhile,Aditya’s wife(Cirisha Narayan), who is an academician at MIT(Boston) stumbles upon a secret which has something to do with the gun lobbies in the United States.True to it’s tag line,Bankerupt is a tale of desire,greed and murder which is played out in Boston,Coimbatore and Mumbai.

The Characters-Bankerupt’s characters are believable,yet tangible.Thankfully, none of them are portrayed as epitomes of all virtues.Be it the Protagonist,Aditya- the banker who measures everything in terms of money or his wife,the ambitious academician who has a soft corner towards her assistant professor colleague(Richard),each one of them have their own weaknesses.But more than the Raisinghanias,it’s Richard-the frustrated assistant professor who evokes the reader’s sympathy.

The Language and Writing-English is pretty basic.There are neither long passages describing the scenic beauty of Charles River esplanade nor long monologues about the pits of moral turpitude that the banking industry has fallen into . The pace is a bit sluggish in the beginning,but picks up pretty soon.Twists and turns come at regular intervals while some of them are really good,a few are nothing but mundane.

What I liked the most about the book-
1.Being a person working in the research field,I could easily relate to the ‘MIT sequences’ in the book.At one point,the author says-‘ In the field of faculty research,it was not about the pay packages:they never got that much to fret over.It was all about egos’.Can’t agree more!
2.The portions related to Dharavi were well written.Frankly speaking,it reminded me of a couple of the real life stories which i read in Rashmi Bansal’s book-‘Poor Little Rich Little Slum’.
3.The climactic twist was terrific.I must admit that I never expected it!
4.The novel has references to many real-life incidents like the June 2013,Santa Monica shooting,the anti-corruption crusade in India to name a few.
5.The book throws light into the strong arms lobby in the United States and the sinister games which they play to save their turf.
6.Ravi Subramanian never confuses the reader.Even the least trivial of the bank transactions/scams mentioned in the book have been explained in simple terms which makes them easy to understand for even the average reader.
What I didn’t like-
1.The tale isn’t entirely devoid of clichés either.For instance,the scene in which Aditya gets a fake call which prompts him to escape from his house looks straight out of a regular Bollywood potboiler.Similarly some of the events happening in the pre-climactic portion of the novel is also run- of- the- mill stuff.
2.The book has it’s predictable moments too.Even before they start working on the NRA project,the reader can easily anticipate what the ‘actual results’ are going to be!
3.The character of Richard had immense potential.It’s a pity that ‘he’ has been grossly under written.Of course,the 'e-mails' are there,but it would have been better if atleast some portions of the story were told in his point of view too!

Verdict-On the whole,Bankerupt is a gripping thriller.I’m giving 4/5 for this brilliant page turner.Highly recommended!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

HOP: Scrotum Scrolls by Kartik Iyengar

Since with this book and because of A Lot of Pages, I become a bona fide reviewer, I will be reviewing this novel a little differently than the ones I have already did for website.

About the Author: This is Kartik Iyengar’s second book in the series of HOP (HORN OK PLEASE) and he is an avid traveler which can be seen through the book he has written and the places he has written about. He doesn’t write books but Blooks.

About The Book: This is the sequel to his first book of HOP series and describes the adventures or misadventures of Chief Redbull, Derek, Goose, Hound and their SUV, Motor mouth. The book is about two alien races, one the Scrotum Heads who want to save the earth and evil Helga who wants to wipe the humanity from the face of the earth. It is upto these four and their SUV to save the world. In doing so, they will find their destinies, which is entwined with their ability to save humanity before 21st December 2012. Will they save the world? Will they find their destiny? These are the questions which will be answered either in the epilogue or so Chief Redbull says.

My Review:
I have not read the first book but most of the characters and the back stories were explained. There are essentially four main characters and the story revolves around them, so you don’t find too much of confusion with the story. It is the run of mill, save the earth story from aliens but the only difference is that only Indians and that too “MORONS” can save the world. This become was a welcome break from all the sappy romances that we read today.

HOP is one novel that takes some time to build a rapport with the readers but once you are into it, there is no escaping. I liked the fact that there was no romance or female presence in the novel. It is about friendship and it stayed there. The narration is done in first person and in the voice of Chief Redbull and it hinder sometimes to understand why a certain character behaves other than the Chief but other than that the book or the blook is a fun ride.

There are secret codes, objects to find and places to travel. There is so much going in the book but it is all explained and told in a way that I never once felt that it was a mess or had trouble understanding what is going on. Although I might have gone without all the slang but then the title in itself is well, a word that is not for polite company or said out loud, regardless the book charmed me in finishing it and waiting for the next book. Read the book for its innovative writing, Indians saving the world and a lesson in astrology. Kartik Iyengar gives you a taste for the extra-terrestrial with the Indian Masala.

P.S. Both about the author and about the book have been written by me. It’s my perception of both the author and the book.

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