Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Cosmic Clues by Manjiri Prabhu

Crime fiction is something I love to read. To solve a mystery, to see if I can follow in the detective’s footsteps and make sense of the case file, to become a detective for a little while… that’s quite fun. I’ve read a few detectives from Indian fiction, but when this book came to me for review, I was intrigued. A detective who solves cases by looking at and to the stars? Now there was something different, something to look forward to.

When a student of astrology and criminology decides to start solving crimes, it would only be natural that she feels a mix of both would work wonders in solving crime. A novel idea, but would it fly in a country where people are so obsessed with the stars? Initially it doesn’t. It brings her more prank calls than proper cases. I wonder if it was in the stars that a feline would find the way for her to get a case. An attempt to find a stray cat’s owner brings her a case, and that gets her (, and her perky assistant Jatin) going.

I’m no astrologer, or criminologist. The closest I’ve come to being the latter is trying to deduce the culprits in CSI before the actual ending is revealed. So to have a mix of both in a book was kind of fun and kind of boggling. The detection is fun, and the astrology talk boggling. However, the author’s attempt to make crime fighting seem easy when the stars are aligned in the protagonist’s favor (forgive the pun) works out fine.

Easy language, light-reading, witty and humorous… the Cosmic Clues is a treat at times. It’s not so interesting that it’ll become a collector’s copy, but it’s a one-time read that’s sure not to leave you disappointed.

In A Gist:
Positives: Plot idea, characters, language and narration skill
Negatives: Too much astrology, could have used more detecting

About the author:
Manjiri Prabhu is an Indian author who has written six novels and a non-fiction. She has been writing since she was seven years old. By profession, Manjiri is a Children’s Television Producer and a short filmmaker for over 20 years.

Book Details:
Title: Cosmic Clues
Series: Stellar Investigations Detective Agency #1
Author: Manjiri Prabhu
Genre: Crime Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: 9788184954791
Publisher: Jaico Books
Price: INR. 299

Reviewed by Leo

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hilawi by Ritu Lalit

Fantasy fiction holds a special place in my heart as a reader, because through the genre, I escape into another world that is completely fictional and I don’t have to imagine that it may be real, the world may exist. I know it doesn’t, and I can enjoy it for that. Ritu’s books have been on my wishlist for a while now. I don’t quite know why it has taken so long for me to read her novels, but I found a copy of Hilawi recently and enjoyed reading it.

I’ve grown up reading or hearing tales from Indian mythology, and from other places as well. I think even recently, if you take books like the Harry Potter series, Spellweaver, Luwan of Brida etc. a theme common to most if not all of these books is the fight between good and bad, and in most cases, the triumph of the former against the latter. Hilawi is also such a tale. The first thing that intrigues you of course is the title. The cover is okay, when you compare it to what her book’s cover designs are these days.

Hilawi is the story of twins Gigi and Vir Ojha, and their friend, Vir’s girlfriend Madhur. They stay in London, but are summoned back to India. Their lives change when they realize they are the guardians of a shield, heavily guarded because of its nature.

Fantasy fiction warrants a quick, magical plotline which flows well. Hilawi has that from the get-go, but sort of slows down towards the end. It warrants interesting characters, and Hilawi has that too. The language is simple, and can be enjoyed by anyone. I’d say it’s a good travel book, because it keeps you engaged for a while easily. I’d say it warrants a sequel too. Hope Ritu delivers it!

In A Gist:
Positives: Title, characters, plotting
Negatives: Slow ending

About the author:
Ritu Lalit is a blogger-turned-author. Her desire to live in a dream world couldn’t be suppressed so she writes fiction now.

Book Details:
Title: Hilawi
Author: Ritu Lalit
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN/ASIN: 9788179917190
Publisher: Popular Prakashan
Price: INR. 125

Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills 2014 at Tales Pensieve.

Reviewed by Leo

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Review: Final Cut by Uday Gupt

Short stories are something I love to read. They provide a refreshing break from the full length novels, and mostly hold my interest in its length and plot. A few short story books of late haven’t quite lived up to expectation, and I was hoping that one comes along that keeps me glued to it.

The book Final Cut by Uday Gupt did manage to do that. It has six short stories and a novella. I think the first thing that appeals to the reader in the book is the cover, which I felt was very nicely designed. The second is that all are set in India at various time frames, which give the stories a breath of their own.

“Hodson’s Gold” explores the key to a treasure, hidden by a British officer during his time. “Friends” explores the friendship between two unlikely people with completely different mindsets and backgrounds. In “It Only Happens in India” a Pulitzer winner comes to India to do a story. “Will Reena”, the sole novella, explores the story of Sukumar and Reena. “Buddha Poornima” is a story set in the 1st century, and is based on the customs before the festival. “The Last Supper” brings out the story of two British officers, who are part of a painting, and who have committed suicide. “Final Cut” brings out the story of the final trick of a magician.

Does each story have the capacity to hold my interest as a reader and offer a twist, or something to make me go wow? I feel so. The writing style in itself is different and enjoyable, though with respect to the first story Hodson’s Gold, I felt the way the initial details were given about Hodson and his quirks and actions made the read a tad boring, like a history book. The plot however was different, and the ending made me sit up and take notice, even laugh out loud in awe. The language is simple, and I couldn’t find any major editing issues. It entertains and engages me as a reader. And that in the end, makes it a very successful book.

In A Gist:
Positives: Cover design, characters, plots, entertainment factor
Negatives: Some parts are boring

About the author:
Uday Gupt currently works for one of the largest banks in the Middle East, in Abu Dhabi. He has been a regular contributor of opinion pieces on economic issues to newspapers and publications. This is his first collection of fiction

Rating: 4/5

Book Details:
Title: The Final Cut
Author: Uday Gupt
Genre: Short Stories
ISBN/ASIN: 9789382473657
Publisher: Leadstart Corp
Price: INR. 195

This was a PR requested review. The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.

Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills 2014 at Tales Pensieve.

Reviewed by Leo

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Confessionally Yours and Frankly Spooking

 "I use Grammarly's plagiarism check because copy-cats can never replicate the success and popularity of the original!"

Title-Confessionally Yours
Author-Jhoomur Bose
Publisher-Penguin(Metro reads)
Source-Personal Copy 

               ‘Confessionally Yours’(published by’ Penguin’ in their ‘Metro Reads’ series) is the kind of  book which is not meant to be taken seriously.After all,I picked up this book as I was looking for a light,entertaining book to read during my two hour commute to Mumbai.The book turned out to be a light read(chick-lit) indeed but what is entertaining?Well,only in parts!
             ‘CY’ is essentially the story of Polly Sharma,a junior probationary staff in a weekly tabloid.She is constantly harassed by her boss(Leena a.k.a. ‘Comma’,who is a bitch by the way)because of her inabilility to write ‘quality stuff’ for the tabloid.To add to her woes,Polly feels that her husband(Siddharth)doesn’t love her as she hasn’t conceived even after 10 months of marital life.In short,her life(both personal and professional) is totally messed and that is when she gets an offer to write an ‘expose’ on an anonymous blogger who is the toast of the season.Loosely based on some real life incidents(even the title of this book has a striking resemblance to a real life blog),the novel traces the life of Polly Sharma and her struggles to break free from the ‘door- mat tag’ which seems to have stuck to her eternally.
           The basic problem with the book is that there is nothing here which we haven’t read or seen before.Most of the twists fall flat and so does the writer’s attempt to take a satirical look at the life as a journo in a tabloid. The references to Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s titillating blog (the compulssive confessor) and her first book deal are difficult to overlook.At times,I even got the feeling that this book wouldn’t have seen the light of the day if miss reddy’s blog hadn’t been there at the first place.Moreover so many things are left un-explained(what was the connection between Trishala and Leena?,why did ‘her friend’ try to sabotage Polly’s career?)but then as I had said before,this is one book which is not meant to be taken seriously.

Verdict-Mediocre stuff!But if you are desperately looking for a half-decent desi chick-lit,you can still give this a try! Rating-2/5

Title-Frankly Spooking
Author-Sriramana Muliya
Publisher-Harper Collins
Source-Personal Copy
         'Frankly spooking' is a rather forgettable anthology of horror stories written by blogger-turned- author Sriramana Muliya.The sole reason for me buying this book was the good press that this book had elicited.Even a couple of bloggers had written really nice things about this work of horror fiction. The fact that this is one of the rare occasions in which an Indian writer had decided to try his hand at writing horror fiction,made me all the more kicked up about this work and I couldn’t resist ordering a copy of this book online.(though I really felt that it was a bit over priced at 295 INR!).But I am sorry to say that the book left me sorely disappointed.First and foremost,’Frankly spooking’ never really succeeded in scaring me.What’s even worse is that Icouldn’t find anything which was even remotely original about any of the stories in the book.In an attempt to spook the reader,Sriramana inadvertently packs in every other horror film clichés(agreed,the tales don’t have a woman in white saree making her appearance every now and then,but I never said ‘Bollywood clichés’,did I?)  and thereby lets down the discerning reader( horror fiction fanatics).Most of the stories and even the situations used in them reek of familiarity and have a been there,read that feel to it.Though there are about two dozen stories in the book,I felt that only two had some potential(‘team player’ and ‘blogosphere’) but that too were spoilt by bland,un-imaginative and abrupt ending.

Verdict-On the whole,’Frankly Spooking’ was a big disappointment.The author deserves praise for attempting something new but not all great ideas translate to desired results.What say you?
Rating- 2/5.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Terror on the Titanic: A Review

Terror on the Titanic is one of the first book that I have read by Samit Basu. Fantasy has always been tough to write and Samit Basu has given three good books before this book and because of this the expectations were high.

I can't say whether the book was the same level as his previous books but very few people manage to write good fantasy books and manage to do that for not only on series but for consecutive series.

Coming back to the story, as the blurb says it is about it is about the The Morningstar Agency and how the fate our world hangs in balance and is up to the young and talented Nathaniel Brown to save us. reading this book gave me a feel of children's book rather than that of young adult.

Even though the characters and the story is gripping, it would be much suited for the children than for adults. As all stories in which magic and fantasy is involved, the world will end if so and so events take place and the intrigue that provides and the goosebumps that come alive on the skin as you turn the page are there. But the problem is that Samit Basu has created a niche for himself and sadly this book doesn't justify that.

It could have been better but having said that I still think Terror on the Titanic is better than all those romance stories, which inadvertently take place in schools and collges. It is our very own series of Animorphs, which I loved as a child.

Read Terror on the Titanic for the character of Nathaniel Brown and also for Samit Basu who gives us not only a good fantasy but also the something different, something unusual.

PS: It is a mixture of aliens and Titanic. It took me sometime but it seems almost like the movie. Wish the way the book was presented and written reflected a adventurous streak of Titanic, rather than a comical (which doesn't make you laugh) premise. 

Bird in a Banyan Tree by Bina Ramani

Title-Bird in a Banyan Tree:My Story
Publisher-Rupa and Co
Price-500 INR
Source-Review Copy via a-lotofpages

     (Bird in a Banyan Tree is entrepreneur-turned-socialite Bina Ramani's autobiography.The book,published by Rupa is also her first released work as an author)
                 Reviewing an autobiography is no easy task.The challenges are multiple.There is always the risk of the review inadvertently turning to an 'opinion' on the author's life/personality/vital decisions taken in his/her life instead of being an un-biased view on the work which he/she has written.If the job is to review a memoir written by someone who was even hailed as the greatest socialite after Maharani Gayathri Devi,the task becomes all the more difficult.So when I first got a chance to review 'Bird in a Banyan Tree',I was a bit apprehensive.But the bibliophile in me couldn't resist the urge to go through the book which made me accept the offer and I'm here reviewing this memoir written by Bina Ramani-the 'Bina' of Binatone.
                  Bina starts off by describing her childhood days in Dadar and Breach Candy.She eloquently writes about her first crush,'Nari' and proceeds to talk about her loving father and her caring,generous Mama who used o remind her of a Banyan Tree which extends it's sturdy,sacred root branches in every direction,providing shelter,food and comfort to all.By the end of the second chapter,we get to know about the crushing blow to her self-esteem when she was forbidden to attend the athletic training camp as her parents felt her wearing shorts and going to the training camps with other boys and girls as in-appropriate.
                   The Memoir also gives insight into her relationship with the Kapoor family of Bollywood,especially the flamboyant Shammi Kapoor.
                   Bina's prose is livid and descriptive.The writer has had the foresight to edit out the irrelevant incidents and the unnecessary details from the final draft of the book and I must say that it has helped this work tremendously.The Memoir manages to hold the reader's attention for most part and there is always a sense of anticipation among the reader regarding what is going to happen next in 'her story'.One thing which I particularly liked about her writing is that at no point in the book,Bina has made a deliberate attempt to glorify or portray herself as an epitome of all virtues.On the other hand,she has tried to be as honest as possible which makes her brave enough to accept that her penchant for dressing differently for every party had sometimes bordered on the obsessive.The Beena we get to know through the book is very much like each one of us-vulnerable and often naive. Likewise,it's heartening to realise that the author is someone who has no qualms in admitting how different she was from her sister Pushpa who was the embodiment of the obedient,conservative daughter that each parent would crave for.There is also the candid admission of her embarassement of being portrayed as 'Shammi's new crush' by the gossip hungry media.
                      It would be grossly inappropriate to call this work as Bina Ramani's life story for it's definitely much more than that.The book is not only about Bina.It's also about the other persons who have strongly influenced her or have played significant roles in her journey of life.For instance,the book reveals the hitherto unknown academic side of Shammi Kapoor and also throws light on to his love for western classical music,philosophy and history.I'm sure atleast a couple of readers might be really surprised to read how much Shammi hated his 'boisterous lover boy' image which seemed to have stuck to him eternally.Similarly this autobiography also gives a marvellous peak into the fading world of royals in the post-independent India.The book is as much a social commentary as it is a memoir.The last few chapters devoted to the Jessica Lal murder case and the media trial which she had to endure will definitely remind the discerning reader about the hypocrisy of the leading media houses and the extend to which they will go for carrying out their hidden agendas.(these days,the national media are having multiple orgasms over a newly formed Delhi based political party.Their deliberate attempt to promote it with a hidden agenda of splitting the anti-congress vote and there by helping their masters in UPA to get a third chance to loot and destroy the great country which India once was is pathetic to say the least.A definite bonus in the book is the never-before-seen black and white photos of a young Bina with other eminent personalities like Indira Gandhi and members of the Kapoor family,to name a few.
                      On the downside,I felt that the book lost track a bit somewhere towards the middle.The excessive descriptions of her frequent visits to elite 'members only' clubs and plush,private salons seemed pointless after a while.Another thing which I found jarring is that though the author has spent a lot of pages for writing about her failed marriage to Andy Ramani and her miserable life in San Francisco,what made her wealthy parents choose 'a normal middle class working man' as their son-in-law has been left largely un explained.
Verdict- On the whole,'Bird in a Banyan Tree' is a moving account of a girl's journey to womanhood and her struggles to overcome the obstacles which almost managed to destroy her.A highly recommended read.Rating-4/5  


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: Hop (The Upward Stride #1) by Alexander Kyle and Jared Holt

Fantasy fiction is a genre in which I’ve always believed that the story needs to be easily imaginable. It needs to bring out images in the reader’s mind, bringing the scene to life. From the summary of a book, it may not always be possible to do that, but I felt a bit of mystery in the summary, which intrigued me even before I began to read the story.

The story brings out the life of Jonathan Troy, his stepdad and stepbrother Jude, and people in their life, like Troy’s friend Michael and Lana Vander. The book is about their life. Troy is the genius brother, to whose standards Jude must match, according to their father, and something that irks Jude. The characters are teenagers, and through the story we watch them in their lives, as they bicker, laugh and have fun, and deal with life as it comes at them (granted there are some things that are unusual, but that’s why it’s a fantasy after all).

Initially atleast, the book seems more about their life than fantasy, growing up and the problems they face, the crushes and rivalries, the expectations from relationships and such. While this did make reading this book a tad boring for me, I liked that it created more depth in their characters. It was quite nice watching them mature. When the fantasy, the action did come, it came quite nicely and I felt engrossed by it, and the concept of The Verge overall I felt was well thought of, perfect for a fantasy with a new world exploration involved.

I think the authors have paid attention to the characters very well, and their dialogues and responses seem apt for the situations they are in. The language is not heavy on the reader either, quite simple and fluid. It’s easy to imagine the scenes, but sometimes I didn’t feel the magic in them, perhaps due to the drama of life of multiple characters also mixed into it.

After reading this book, I’m not sure how successful the book is as a fantasy, but I feel it is definitely not a failure. Best wishes to the authors for the success of the series.

In A Gist:
Positives: Simple narration, good depth of characters and dialogues, quite good fantasy world.
Negatives: Life and fantasy together makes it a little boring sometimes,.

About the author:
Alexander Kyle is a South African author, who has been imagining fantasy worlds ever since he heard his first fairy tale. He is also an avid gamer. He has written his first fantasy fiction along with his friend Jared Holt, who is currently working as an assistant English teacher in Japan. Jared is also an avid gamer, and loves reading books as well.

Rating: 3.5 STARS

Book Details:
Title: Hop
Series: The Upward Stride #1
Author: Alexander Kyle, Jared Holt
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Publisher: Matter-of-Fact Publishers, via Amazon.
Price: INR. 207 / $3.18


Monday, January 6, 2014

Grand Delusions

Some books you chose , some books choose you.

This is one of the books i am glad came to me and i read it , even if the only reason was that one of my best friend is a bengali, a resident of kolkata too.

When i started the book , i treatrd it as a book on kolkata , a city i knew nothing about. And gradually it became a study of any city i knew of. It made me aware how much i do not know about the place i grew up in , the cities i stayed for work or the one i occupy now.

This book was a reminder that not just geography or history alone can tell you of the changes in a city. It is a combination of both and a few other aspects that will help you belong to any area.

Indrajit's writing is so fluent and fun at places that it doesnt even feel i was reading about a city. It was more of his memories , his feelings and his experiences of the city. It was about the origin and evolution of a city , its culture , its people ,the politics ,  its identity and its entity as a being. He brought some of the buildings alive for me , some incidents of my own life made their presence felt in my subconcious mind while i read his. He gave a human point of view on behalf of all non living things too it seems.

I do not know how much of kolkata i will remember few weeks later but i will never be able to treat my city like before.  I am now curious to know and read about my cities , this country a lot more and even make my own discoveries.

This book proved to be the best way to begin 2014 for me.

Rating : You Must must must read this one.

The Virgins by Siddharth Tripathi

Title-The Virgins
Author-Siddharth Tripathi
Publisher-Finger Print
Price-250 INR
Source-review copy from talespensieve

First things first.'The Virgins' by Siddharth Tripathi is the coming-of-age story of three teenage boys which is set in Banaras.So if you have started reading this review expecting the book to be a serious take on virginity/extra-marital relationships or something of that sort,I'm sorry to disappoint you.On the contrary,Siddharth Tripathi's book is a light,breezy read which can be easily finished in one sitting.Though umpteen number of buddy tales have been published in the recent past by debutant Indian writers what makes 'The Virgins' different from the rest is that unlike the others which have metro cities as their backdrop,this one is set in a small town (Banaras).

The Plot- The Virgins is essentially the story of three friends-Pinku,Bandhu and Guggi.Though all the three are three diverse characters,their bond of friendship is really strong.All of them have their own share of woes which range from being poor and a school drop out to being rich and sexually starved.The book is all about their 'brilliant' plans and escapades during their journey to manhood.

The language and Writing-The writing is crisp and fast paced.English is pretty okay with not too many complicated sentences.Grammatical errors and typos are far and few and the overall book design is also pleasing.
The Characters- All the characters,be it the protagonists or the peripheral ones are very well etched out.Pinku is distinct because of his intellectual ways,Bhandhu is special because he is the typical innocent boy next door while Guggi is lovable because of his brashness.There are some 'thoughtfully named' characters like moods singhand they really add on to the entertainment quotient of the book.

1.The author knows how to keep his readers engaged to the proceedings.There is never a dull moment in the novel,the jokes keep coming at regular intervals and the antics of the pivotal characters manage to keep the reader entertained for most part.
2.The city of Varanasi and it's beauty have been described quite well by the author.
3.Full marks to the writer for not making the tale preachy or Bollywoodish towards the end.
4.The brilliant characterisation of Pinku,Bandhu and Guggi and their funny escapades covers up the big holes in the plot to an extend.
5.The Cover design is superbly done and is in perfect sync with the overall mood of the book. 

1.There are a lot of crude dialogues in the book.Agreed,boys of this age might mouth profanities.But when it comes to print,reading all those lines repeatedly becomes irritating and plain boring after a point.
2.The book doesn't have a proper plot.It merely narrates a couple of incidents and more or less gives the character sketch of it's principal characters.Though it worked for most part,the lack of a credible story line might be a turn off for atleast a section of the readers.
3.Too many sub plots which didn't really add anything to the narrative.
4.The plot takes it's own sweet time to garner momentum.For instance,the first couple of chapters really didn't make any sense to me!

Verdict-On the whole,'The Virgins' is an entertaining read.I'm giving 3 out of 5 for this '3 Idiots' meets 'Fukrey' kind of story.
The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sirens Spell Danger by Multiple Authors

This book has 3 short stories , each by different blogger turned author. I have always enjoyed novellas / story collections but very few of these are thrillers. So , I was quite glad to know all the three stories were thrillers. 

Femme Fatale – C. Suresh: Lured by a sexy siren, Vicky is mistaken for a secret agent, kidnapped, tortured and slated for death. Will he survive and save Bangalore from going up in flames?

Bella Donna – Radha Sawana: There is a serial killer loose in the city leaving mysterious messages around the bodies of the victims. Are the messages a challenge to the police or a siren call to lure another victim?

Bellary – The Fool: Jay is sent to Bellary to investigate a possible ISI plot. Was it merely a murky political plot or was there something more sinister in the offing? And why were two women suddenly singing siren songs of love?

I am little biased when I review so I will state that my favourite story was "Bella Donna" , 'cause it was real gripping story of an investigation that takes you through a lot in terms of time , places , means and the plot is just wow. Plus I love serial killer tales ( Yes , I am like that :P )

Femme Fatale has some amazing action scenes which impressed me and I guess those kept me hooked to the story even though the plot is quite simple.

Bellary was a surprise in many ways. It hooked me , made me read with attention , confused a bit and ultimately left me wanting lot more. I mean , it had such a neat end and yet I wanted to read more adventures of the central character. I fell in love with him I guess while reading this tale.

Overall , this made a good book to end 2013. A fast and easy book to read and keep you interested for a few hours. Since it is available as kindle format , it is easy to read anytime , anywhere. Do give this a try.

Rating : 3/5

Book Details: 
Author - C Suresh, Karthik L, Radha S 
Genre - Thriller 
Price - INR. 99

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

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#BookReview: Utrecht Rain by Jonathan Wilkins

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars Maaike Meijer is attacked in a senseless outbreak of violence at the Dom Tower in Utrecht. Her broth...