Leo

Romantic Bouncers, by Ram Vignesh

12:44:00 PM

I've read books where cricket and the genre are mixed, and not come out well. The impression that Ram Vignesh's Romantic Bouncers gave from the blurb was that it would be worth the read. It promised not just a story in the cricketing world, but also a romance and a thriller. A small part of me still wondered if mixing so many aspects would muddle the story and the impact that it makes.

Rabin is an aspiring cricketer. His dream is to be part of the Indian National team. As is the dream of his best friend Sarath. But they know that's not going to be easy. The romance angle brings in Kristina, who studies in the same college. Any aspiration of such levels usually has an antagonist. That is his father. And such a dream will also a silent supporter, who is Bharaga. The story follows the aspiration of Rabin, and the journey towards that, while bringing twists and other characters into and around that.

The mix of so many things - romance, mystery, family drama, cricket etc. - would usually be a bit difficult to read, and to be honest, at times, it does feel like that, but the narration is steady, in a simple language, and doesn't make that feeling last long. I liked the characters what Ram Vignesh brings, especially the silent supporter Bharaga and of course Rabin, the main protagonist. It has enough essence to keep the reader engaged.

I'm slightly miffed that though characters were introduced well, two of them did not quite appeal to me. Kristina's character in the book doesn't work that well, and probably because she's shown as dead first, and then the reader taken back in time. And, though I cannot tell why exactly, the character of Hoariest Bung didn't quite make an impression on me either.

The novel is not one that everyone will enjoy, but it's worth trying. I'm looking forward to more from Ram Vignesh, and will see if I can procure a copy of his earlier book.

Reviewed by Vinay Leo R. for the author, who gave a copy of the Book
(Review dated 31/12/15 to match as per my marking on Goodreads).

Mainak Dhar

Chronicler of the Undead by Mainak Dhar

11:18:00 AM

Author:Mainak Dhar
Title:Chronicler of the Undead
Westland Books
178+Pages
review copy via writersmelon


                   I'm a huge fan of Horror films.But when it comes to books,I try to avoid them as far as possible.Somehow,I feel that the 'scare factor' is lost when it's read.I had tried reading a couple of Stephen King novels a couple of years back ,but couldn't finish them as the 'horror element' didn't work for me at all.So,when this new book by Mainak Dhar came to me for review from writers melon,I was a bit apprehensive initially to pick it up as it belonged to the horror genre.Anyways,I decided to give it a try as it wasn't a very lengthy book.
                   Mainak Dhar is one of the few Indian authors who writes Horror fiction(well,I've done my bit of research on him by now).Set in the backdrop of  a Zombie apocalypse,'Chronicler of the Undead' is a horror tale laced with humour.The hero/narator is an army man- turned -writer who is the last man surviving after the ZA.He is staying in an isolated mansion on top of a hill and is currently running out of food and water.With zombies roaming around in the streets,his survival instincts are put to test.However he chronicles his day to day activities and his struggles for survival in his journal.

                            There aren't many characters in this book apart from the protagonist,the Zombies and the 'gentlemen' whom he encounters.Pretty soon he realizes that it's not only the 'Morekos' whom he has to fight with.The book is essentially about the hero's fights for survival and has traces of movies like 'I am Legend'.

                The book didn't 'scare' me that much but with it's twists and turns,it did manage to surprise me a few times.The language used is pretty simple and conversational without any literary pretensions.It has got a nice suspense towards the end and at less than two hundred pages,this is the kind of book which can be finished in just one setting.On the downside,'Chronicler..' is definitely not everyone's cup of tea and if you are looking for a breezy romantic tale for your weekend reading,this is just not the book for you.

Verdict-On the whole,the book is an entertaining read.I'm giving it a 3 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

Children book

The Teddy Who Ran Away, by Preethi Venugopala

11:24:00 AM

This is a book with a single story written for tiny tots, an experiment in writing in the genre by the author who wrote this for her child.

The book, kind of like Baby's Day Out, is a Teddy's Day Out. Teddy, the Teddy Bear, like Hobbes, seems alive yet bored with life at home, and decides to run away. The story follows the adventures he has in the little time that he spends in the world outside.

Knowing that it is for small children, the author has kept away from big complicated words and made it very short and simple chapters. It's a fun bed time story which I am quite sure a child will love, and of course, it has a happy ending too.

I think what a child would love more is to have pictures, and not just at the beginning of each chapter. If the book is illustrated more, it would delight a child, as at that age, they find pictures more appealing than words, and also, it'd help to learn.

I rate it 4 stars.

nikhimenon

The Best Seller She Wrote by Ravi Subramanian

4:12:00 PM

Ravi Subramanian
Westland
2015
295 INR
Review copy via blogadda


                    Ravi Subramanian is one of the few Indian authors whom I love reading. Almost all his published works till date have been fast paced banking thrillers. 'The Best Seller She Wrote' is his first attempt at romantic intrigue and after finishing this book in just one sitting,I can confidently say that his attempt change over diversion is only moderately successful.The book has it's moments for sure but it has it's own share of flaws as well.

                   Aditya Kapoor is the king of mass market paperbacks.His career as a banking professional is equally successful.His wife is the georgeous,superbly talented,IIM educated Maya who is into social work.Kapoor chances upon Shreya Kaushik during one of his usual interactive sessions with the college students and what starts off as a bitter relationship soon transforms into fanship and eventually(and quite expectedly) to love. 

                   Coming to the positives,the language used is quite simple and conversational.There are enough twists and turns happening at regular intervals making the readers hooked to the proceedings.Though at the heart of it, the book is nothing but a typical bollywoodish cliched triangular love tale, it's the setting and the intelligent execution by Ravi which makes this work an okay read. Ravi Subramanian has tried to touch upon (albeit topically) some of the unethical practices prevailing in the Indian publishing Industry. Aditya Kapoor's character(the IIM trained 'rockstar banker-turned-author', guess who!) is quite well written and the reader can feel the pain and tension which he was going through.There aren't too many unnecessary supporting characters(this book review is sounding more like a movie review,I know,but then,this novel is also more like the screenplay of a Bollywood blockbuster!) but the few which are there are pivotal in taking the story forward.The tale feels semi-autobiographical at times.There are references to real-life authors(Ashwin Sanghi,James patterson,Wendy Doniger and Ravi Subramanian himself) and personalities(Nita Ambani,Nirav Sanghavi of blogadda) incidents.

                  On the downside,the book suffers from pacing issues at times. At 390+ pages,'The best seller...' is quite lengthy and somewhere towards the middle,it drags a bit. Another issue which I have with this work is regarding the 'sex scenes'. The sex scenes are quite graphic and badly written.As one of the characters in this book herself says,Sex scenes if badly written are a big turn off.The book cover also is not that much appealing and only managed to give a mushy feel to it.The character of Shreya is a bit confusing.You never get to know whether she was actually in love with Aditya or was it only her ulterior motive which drove her into the tumultuous relationship with Kapoor.There aren't too many unnecessary supporting characters(this book review is sounding more like a movie review,I know,but then,this novel is also more like the screenplay of a Bollywood blockbuster!) but the few which are there are pivotal in taking the story forward.The romance(Aditya-Shreya) is half baked and apart from the poorly written sex scenes there is nothing much which depicts the intensity of Aditya's liking/love towards Shreya.    

                Even if you don't enjoy reading this book,you will have a good time trying to figure out the real-life inspiration behind many of the characters and incidents featured in this book(Ramesh Karia,Kiwi books).

Verdict-To sum it up,Ravi Subramanian has tried to do a Ravinder Singh(I'm not a big fan of Singh either) with 'The Best Seller...'.The book might end up in the best seller list,but for me it's just average stuff.I'm giving a 2.5 out of 5.

I am reviewing ‘The Bestseller She Wrote’ by Ravi Subramanian as a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

fantasy fiction

#BookReview : Faith of the Nine by Sachin Dev

2:25:00 AM

In my previous review I talked of trilogies and how some ate easy to remember 'cause not much happens. Then there are books like this where so much happens and is developed in such circles that the key players are etched in your head.

Its man's nature to forget Gods and instead create facades in his name to serve the selfish interests. And it always comes down to miracle babies and the harsh realizations for all. Faith of the nine has a similar plot plus few characters whose destiny is linked to this boy.

The author is well read, visual and articulates each scenario in Details. The book reflects our past and preSent in a subtle way as much as it is a quest for truth - be it the characters in this book or yourself. The events and places somehow remind one of our roots. Like memories or stories heard long back and now being played out.

What i loved in the story is that there are no loopholes or shortcuts. The action sequences and the mystique is flawless and used well. The book is much engaging and is a treat to read for anyone who likes fantasy books. Even otherwise , this is an entertaining one for all.

Am eagerly awaiting the next part.

My rating : 4/5


Comeback warrior trilogy

#Bookreview : Divine command by Saranya Umakanthan

12:57:00 AM




There are fantasy books and then there are trilogies. Problem with trilogies is that one has to remember what goes on in each part. Atleast that will not be much of a problem in this series. The plot is fairly simple to begin with- a hero dies fighting the asur god who is in possession of a rudra key that revives him more powerful than before. One half of same ,combined with mantras by the king makes way for the hero to be born someday with blessings and a goal to save the secret mantras and kill the asur king.

And after this, we gradually come to know more of both nations , the present tensions  since the comeback warrior is brought up in some remote city and is unaware of the legacy. But he is the typical good guy who is courageous , kind and intelligent enough to face any adversity.

One scene after another , the plot is a bunch of cliches though the writing lifts itslef in places. Some one who is an avid reader would be able to easily predict many of the twists. The comeback warrior's attitude is kind f so laid back - good or bad , he just acceots things as they come. There is not much convincing about his actions sometimes. The book is kind of YA and is more suitable for young teens and beginners. In that respect, i appreciate that the language is very simple and easy to follow. There is kind of innocence in the characters. I did not enjoy this much but I would reccomend it to some of my younger cousins.

My rating : 2.5/5 

Aniesha Brahma

When Our Worlds Collide by Aniesha Brahma

10:14:00 AM





I have always admired Aniesha's books. For some unexplained reason,they remind me of my younger dreamy self. And then there is the poems she weaves into the stories. Like icing on a fresh yummy cake :D

One night last week,I started reading this book just to get it started so I would finish it next day. 2 hours later, i had finished the book and had such a huge smile on my face.

This is a story of Akriti ,Zyan and some more people who are a part of their world. Akriti and Zyan are as different in approach to life as much they are similar in interests and understanding of life. But this book is not about the plot but more about how Aniesha has treated it with her words and understanding of characters. There is this whole range of love and friendship saga that we all go through and sometimes we do realize its neither the end or the beginning of either. It is a ride life offers us at times and one should just enjoy it.

Aniesha is one of the few authors who really write YA in true sense. The way the changing emotions and trends are captured in this novella is brilliant. The book size is perfect , flow of the story too. This is a book for readers of all ages and taste.

My rating : 4/5

Buy When Our Worlds Collide (General Press) here

F.T.Camargo

#BookReview : Shanti and the Magic Mandala by F.T.Camargo

9:59:00 PM



I started the book , well aware of the reputation it has earned in terms of all the literary awards. Also YA is one of my favorite genre and I have been waiting for an opportunity to read some book from this category. 

Shanti, Antonio, Helena, Nasir, Itai, and Tadao  - six people from different background , each with not just somewhat related interest but a common destiny - of saving planet Earth from forces that have been active not just years but from centuries. Here, this part might be a little stretch for readers to accept , but I liked that the book opened with this setting so the readers are prepared for the plot twists to come. Setting the mood for the book is something I would totally commend the author for. The author takes time to introduce us to each of the characters and that is the most engaging part of the story for me. From there, the story flows smoothly though a little slow for my pace. But considering the reader's age and sensibilities , I think the book would work well. 

The writing is simple and well researched. The action sequences are crafted seamlessly in the narration of the story. The story throws good light on some of the problems Nature is subjected to by humans and a good lesson on how we should act responsibly and pass these teachings to our kids too. Tracing six different characters and their ideologies is a huge task and I totally appreciate how the author tried to show that no matter the differences, we all have similar desires , fears and reasons to save our planet. 
 
Overall , the book did not disappoint me.
My Rating : 3.5/5 

indian mythology

#BookReview: The Curse of Bhrama by Jagmohan Bhanver

8:43:00 AM

Curse of Bhrama is an intelligent story that culminates with birth of Lord Krishna. For gods to be born on earth , one needs an opponent worthy enough. Kansa proves to be an unusual choice but then, destiny and other's cunning motives have wrecked many a souls from countless ages.

I liked the way the author has decided to paint Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Bhramma. So i kind of beleive that most evil men have been hurt or wronged in some way that tipped them over the edge. It is no excuse for the evilness but sometimes just a cause. The author has tried to use the same line of thought as he creates the Dark Lord ( would have preferred a different term coz this reminds only of HP! ) who was once the star pupil of Bhramma. The same person when cursed to the deepest of hell now decides to take his revenge on Bhramma, destroying anything that comes in between.

The writitng is engaging, descriptions detailed enough to give the reader a visualistic experience. Some of the characters and their back stories are used well to keep the story uniformly paced and even add more drama to it. The situations suit the men and times of India those many centuries back and I could not find much reason to look for flaws.

Definitely looking forward to the next book.

My rating : 4/5

introductions

#Introducing Faith of the Nine by Sachin Dev

4:00:00 PM




About the Book:
The Third Yuga is slowly drawing to a close. Nam – the greatest Empire on Janani – is going to face some fierce winds of change. Seers foresee omens of death and destruction in the return of the Banished One – A God who will claim the ashes of this world as revenge. While out in the streets, rumours abound - of older forgotten powers stirring.

Caught in this maelstrom of a power struggle between Gods are three ordinary lives: General Fateh, the most celebrated soldier in Nam who starts to question his faith, Ishan – a gifted orphan who struggles to comprehend his destiny and Abhaya – a young monk in search of truths about this world. Their choices and actions will shape the destiny of this scarred world that becomes the playground for vindictive Gods.

In a world where Rakshasas arise out of left-over traces of Maaya and twilight forms the portal to countless worlds around us for Daityas and Yakshis to dance through, a God is only as powerful as those who believe.And when Gods rise, faith of men will be tested…And broken.

BUY the book at your favorite (r)etailers!

Paperback          Flipkart  ||  LandmarkOntheNet  ||  Infibeam  ||  Pustak Mandi
eBook                   Newshunt  ||  Google Play! ( Books)

About the Author:
Sachin discovered Tolkien in his teens, alternative rock as a new adult and digital marketing in pretty much his late twenties. These still form a large wedge in his circle of life. Travel, radio and theatre have also figured in that ever-expanding and diminishing circle.

On perhaps a more prosaic note, he is an engineer from BITS Pilani and holds an MBA from Indian School of Business. Attribute the love for numbers and pie-charts to this. He is currently based in Bangalore and happily married to Harini. He spends an inordinately large amount of time chasing after his two dogs (who love the free life a bit too much) when he is not busy dreaming up fantasy worlds full of monsters. And beautiful Yakshis, of course.

He can usually be found ranting on twitter under the handle @xenosach, devouring books and talking about them on his blog. You can always stalk him online at his official website

introductions

#Introducing Soul Warrior by Falguni Kothari

12:50:00 AM


Twisted myths. Discretion advised. 

Fight fate, or succumb to destiny?

In the dark Age of Kali, the Soul Warrior alone stands guard over the Human Realm, protecting its denizens from evil-willed asuras or demons. When a trick of fate appoints him guru to a motley crew of godlings, he agrees to train them as demon hunters against his better judgment. Suddenly, Lord Karna is not only battling the usual asuras with sinister agendas, but also rebellious students and a fault-ridden past.

Spanning the cosmic realms of mythic India, here is a tale of a band of supernatural warriors who come together over a singular purpose: the salvation of Karna’s secret child.




Book Links:
Kobo * iBooks * Amazon US * Amazon UK * Amazon Canada

Read an Excerpt:

CHAPTER ZERO
DWANDA-YUDDHA: THE DUEL

The Himalayan Mountains.
Five thousand years ago.

Absolute darkness shrouded the Human Realm, and had for three days and three nights. Some believed the occurrence was prophetic, like the prolonged amavasya or new moon night that had heralded the Great Kuru War two thousand years ago. The war had given birth to the dark Age of Kali, the age of asura. In contrast, hope was ripe that this event would trigger the Age of Light. But the Bard wasn’t here to succumb to superstition. 
The first day without the sun’s light had spread confusion and chaos across the realm. The second day had brought desperation in the breasts of humans and fear in the belly of Celestials. The third day—today—was a feast for the asuras. Death lay everywhere. 
The human world burned without its sun. How soon before the Heavens went up in flames?
The Bard’s troubled eyes reread the last line. Then he deliberately scratched it off, lifting his long, pointed talon from the parchment made of dry palm leaf. With a sigh, he rested his aching hand on his trembling thigh. He would spare a moment to ease his body, and his mind from the strain of observation and due recordkeeping. If he didn’t, he’d forget his duty as Witness of the Cosmos, and begin to question fate. 
Despite the fire that crackled close to his right knee, and the feathered form of his upper body, he was cold. An icy wind had settled around the Pinnacle of Pinnacles, where he sat cross-legged on a seat made of rock and snow. He’d chosen this perch because it gave him an impartial view of the events happening in the world. He was the Bard, entrusted with keeping the Canons of the Age of Kali, just as the Soul Warrior was entrusted with keeping the Human Realm safe from asuras. Would they both fail in their duty today?
The Bard shook off the heavy despair the darkness had brought into the world. He mustn’t judge. He shouldn’t question. He would sharpen the talon on his forefinger, dip it into the vessel of ink kept warm by the fire, and write this tale. That was all he could do. Be the witness to history.
So he raised his feathered hand and began to write again while his eyes, sparked with power, knowledge and magic, saw clearly events unfolding from great distances. A thousand kilometers to his right, Indra, the God of War and Thunder, fought the Dragon. Indra did not fare well. But that didn’t concern the Bard as much as the clash between the Soul Warrior and the Stone Demon. Over and over, his eagle eyes were drawn to the duel taking place in the heart of the world, not only because it was a magnificent battle to behold, for it was, but because its outcome would decide mankind’s destiny.
The Soul Warrior was more than a great warrior. Karna was a great soul. Fair, honorable, brave and resilient, he was the perfect protector of the Human Realm. Of course, there were other reasons he’d been chosen to fill the office of Soul Warrior—there always were when Gods and demons were involved. But Karna’s existence was a testament to righteous action and if anyone could bring back the day, it would be him. 
But how did one vanquish stone, the Bard wondered?
Avarice and cruelty, two nefarious desires, had made Vrtra and Vala attack the Human Realm. Three days ago the Dragon had swallowed the Seven Rivers in the north, and the Stone Demon had imprisoned the Sun God, his daughter, and all the cattle of the region in his cave.
The Bard paused his writing as a thin vein of lightning winked across the skies, but without the accompanying roar. Indra’s strength waned. His thunderbolt hadn’t left Vrtra screaming in pain this time. The Bard spared a moment’s attention on the duel, just enough to note that the Maruts, the Celestial Storm-gods, waited in the clouds to rescue their god-king in case of a calamity. Indra would survive even in defeat. Of that, the Bard was sure.
But Karna had no one at his back. His might and god-powers had depleted without the sun’s healing warmth and light. His divine astras, weapons, had not slowed the Stone Demon down, at all. Only the conviction that he could not fail his godsire, his sister, and the innocents under his protection drove him now. His birth family had once abandoned him to his fate, but he would not abandon them to theirs—such was the greatness of Karna.
The Bard crossed out the last observation. No questions. No judgment. No praise, either. The canons would be free of all emotion. He wasn’t here to embellish history or glorify the history-makers, as some bards were wont to do. 
It wasn’t embellishment to write that the foothills of Cedi were drenched in the Soul Warrior’s blood. Or observe the gushing wounds on his body, despite his armor, that would make the hardiest of warriors bellow in agony, but not him. It wasn’t embellishment to write that the Heavens were empty for the Celestials had come to Earth to watch the battle, firelight cupped in their palms to light the warrior’s way. 
The Naga, the Serpent People, also looked on, hissing from the mouth of the portal that led to their underground realm beneath the hills. The Serpent King will not choose a side. Vrtra and Vala were half Naga, after all. All across the Human Realm, demons roamed free, taking advantage of the darkness and preying on human flesh and human souls. It was a terrible moment in history. The asuras had the upper hand in the eponymous age of Demon Kali.
Vala did not have arms and half a leg, but still he came at Karna. He had an ace up his sleeve. There were plenty of creatures about, an entire mountain close at hand. He began to chant the spell of soul transference. It was the darkest of all magic, the possession of another’s soul. Soon, he would be whole again and stronger than before.
Battered and bleeding, the Soul Warrior veered away from the Stone Demon. He leapt over boulders and charred vegetation. The onlookers called him a coward. Had he forfeit the duel? Has he forsaken mankind? 
Karna dove for Manav-astra, the spear of mankind, he’d thrown aside yesterday after his bow, Vijaya, had shattered under repeated use. In one smooth motion, he rolled, picked up the astra, coming up in the spear-thrower’s stretch. His tattered lower garment billowed about him as a gust of wind shot through the air. His muscled torso glistened with blood and sweat, tightened as he pulled the arm holding the spear back. 
He meant to throw Manav-astra at Vala. A futile attempt, to be sure? As long as Vala was made of stone, broken or not, his body was impregnable. Karna should have waited for Vala to transfer his soul to an onlooker. Then Karna should have vanquished the possessed creature. 
Taunting laughter reverberated through the foothills of Cedi. Vala had reached the same conclusion. The Celestials looked at each other in angry silence, unable to interfere. A dwanda-yuddha duel was fought between two opponents of equal size and strength alone. The humans hadn’t stopped screaming in three days, the din simply background noise now. 
The Bard scribbled the observations onto the parchment in no particular order. He wished he was a painter, for surely this was a picture worth a thousand words.
About the Author:
 

Falguni Kothari is a New York-based South Asian author and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a semi-professional background in Indian Classical dance. She’s published in India in contemporary romance with global e-book availability; Bootie and the Beast (Harlequin Mills and Boon) and It’s Your Move, Wordfreak! (Rupa & Co.), and launches a mythic fantasy series with Soul Warrior (The Age of Kali, #1)

I’m embarrassed to admit how many social media accounts I own :

Website * BlogTwitter * Facebook * Goodreads * Pinterest






Aditya Iyenger

The Thirteenth Day by Aditya Iyenger - A story of the Kurukshetra War

6:52:00 PM

I have probably read almost all books written about Mahabharata war or based on the epic in the last two years. Then It all became so similar that a break was much needed. While everyone has a different view about the events or uses a different character to revolve the story around , the element of mythology or the beyond reach kind of narration stayed in most books. As much one tried to imagine the characters as human without magical powers or means , it was never perfect for me till I read "The thirteenth Day".

This book is funny ,  feels real , interesting ( I mean it ! ) and well written account of the Kurukshetra war , starting from the night of tenth day , after Bhishma has fallen and now lies on a bed of arrows. When Karan visits him later that night , he asks him to take over the throne , he being the eldest Pandava and best friend of Suyodhana. While Karan who is referred as Radheya in the book , is in two minds about this offer , the war intensifies as new strategies are decided each night and the day passes in offense / defense from the battle formations , clash of warriors and the personal agendas of all involved.

I always admire war movies for the details of the planning and the execution of the strategy and the tales of each character involved. Aditya has written this book in almost similar fashion. The book is in voices of the main characters , capturing their feelings and unsaid thoughts. The conversations are easy to follow and often with a tinge of humor. The descriptions of the events and the weapons are realistic and rooted to the economical and practical feasibility in those times.

I absolutely liked reading Yudhishthira's accounts - the person he is , the person he is supposed to be and the clashes of the two personalities.

I returned to reading after a month's break and I could not have had a better one to return to. I am almot sad this ended so soon.

My Rating : 5/5

author interview

Guest Post by Best Selling Author 'Thomas M.D. Brooke'

12:36:00 PM

  Here in this guest post,eminent writer 'Thomas M.D.Brooke' shares with us the inspiration behind his recent best-selling work,'Roman Mask'.Read on...!


Turning a negative into a positive – the inspiration behind Roman Mask

                     It was an October night, and I was returning home from a night out with a few friends in my local pub in London, when something happened that changed my life dramatically.  The nights were closing in, so it was already dark by the time I left the pub, but I was in a good mood.   I’d recently returned from a trip to Pompeii , so I’d been telling everyone of my excitement at walking through the Roman streets, marvelling at the murals and depictions on the well preserved houses, and laughing about the seedier aspects of the ancient city – the brothels and street graffiti that had also survived the great volcanic eruption of AD 79.

                It was probably because I was so preoccupied with these thoughts, that I didn’t see the guy who came out of an alcove and wrapped an arm around my neck.  My first thought was, ‘Am I being mugged?  Who’s going to mug me??’ – I’m a big guy, over six feet tall and I keep myself in pretty good shape, so I’d always thought the chance of this happening in Londonwere pretty remote.  But I was wrong.

                When the second guy came out from behind a car, then the third from behind a bush I knew I was in trouble.  This was no ordinary street robbery; these guys were out for blood, and the three of them surrounded me and between them punched, kicked, and smashed me to the ground, beating me to an inch of my life.

                Afterwards, as I tried to hobble home – one of them had crushed my foot, to prevent me from getting up – another passer-by saw me covered in blood and called an ambulance.  I was lucky, I got to live another day.  And within a few weeks, my bruises healed, and I began to walk without a limp, all physical signs of my encounter disappeared.  But that was just the start of my nightmare.

                I was completely unprepared for the mental-trauma that such an incident inflicts on you.  That winter was torture for me.  After any night out, I was terrified to go home; I found I was scared of the dark, constantly thinking that people would jump out of the shadows at me.  I’d never previously been a heavy drinker, but over that winter I found I needed to drink a lot just to give me the courage to walk home.  I could have called a taxi, but then people would wonder why I was taking a cab for such a small journey – this became another all-encompassing fear:  that others would find out about my terror.   This might seem irrational, but at the time, that fear was almost as great as being mugged again.

                Those first six months were very difficult, but then as the nights started getting lighter, an idea came to me.  After visiting Pompeii I’d been searching for a character to be a lead in a novel set in ancient Rome – someone who fully embraced the entirety of Rome, its seedier aspects as much as itsmagnificence.  Why not put my experiences to good use, rather than having it a weight bearing me down, let it be something that produces something positive.  At the time, the news on the television was full of stories of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress and it made me think how soldiers dealt with such issues in the ancient world.  My experiences had shown me the power that traumatic events can play on the mind, and I quite simply didn’t believe anyone who claimed that in the ancient world such a thing was not a concern because life was different back then.   The human mind was biologically exactly the same then as it is now, and just as fallible to conditions we now diagnose and understand the importance of.

                So I came up with the character Cassius, a great soldier, but someone who’d been affected by a terrible battle a few years before in the forests of Germany.   I knew from my own experiences how easy it was to fall into a trap of blaming yourself for your own perceived weakness, and I knew how living a lie to hide that same weakness can become a part of life.  I then started my novel in Rome so I could show Cassius being seduced by the many vices of that ancient city – something that is all too easy under such circumstances.  I then returnedCassius to Germany where he learns to understand and come to terms with his fears, just as I did whilst writing my novel.  The novel culminates in the Teutoburg forest and one of the most dramatic and historically significant battles of the ancient world.  Cassius needs to draw on all his courage and strength in the midst of that terrible event.

                I’m now pleased that I encountered those three men, that fateful night in October.  It was a terrible experience, but it gave me something so much more – I wouldn’t change it for anything.

'Roman Mask' can be bought online through the following links 1,2,3.

-nikhimenon




eBook

The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain

9:48:00 PM

There are few works of some authors that will surprise even the best of that author’s fans. Not many could believe Rowling wrote The Casual Vacancy. This short novella by Mark Twain is another. At first read, I couldn’t quite understand how the author who wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn could write such a tale. The novella is considered as his last work, to an extent that parts of it are not even Twain’s.

The story deals with humanity as a whole, and goes into an exploration of religion, moral sense etc. It is satirical, and with small events, shows aspects of society we are accustomed to seeing. It is a discussion between “Satan” and the narrator. The concept of Satan itself is well dealt with and his character, intriguing. It made me wonder how Satan could befriend the three boys, and the narrator Theodor in particular. But I guess, if Satan can appear anywhere and know every thought, then it’s quite easy for him to control people too.

The story goes quickly. It would appeal to certain readers more than it did to me. I chose the book only because of the author. Though it did not have that essence of Mark Twain’s style that I had hoped for, it was worth exploring. On the whole, I rate it 3 stars.



Reviewed by Vinay Leo R.
Source: Own Copy

Chic-Lit

I Don't Wear Sunscreen, by Kavipriya Moorthy

3:38:00 PM

When it comes to fiction, I have read (and sometimes written) stories that tend to border the extreme. But it is the idea of a plot being true to life that sometimes appeals to the reader in me. The book became known to me for completely different reasons, but after reading the blurb, it was the plot that piqued my curiosity, and made me download it.

Laksha’s life seems easy at first. She has the little things that matter – good friends, a loving family, dreams that make her stand out from the group and an enthusiasm to do well in life. That desire makes her excel, and helps her to convince her family to let her pursue further studies in a different city. But there are obstacles thrown in her way which test her mettle.

On first look, the plot seems to indicate the tried and tested route – a character whose life is going smoothly, a twist that brings the problem into her life and a happy ending. Thankfully, the plot has enough smaller plots in it that it is not as direct as that. And I loved the happy ending, which did not go the usual route, and brought a smile as I read it. One thing that I didn’t like was that the plot feels like it rushes through. When a plot is as true to life, I felt that a little detailing might have helped make it better.

The characters in this book felt quite different, in a good way. The main character Laksha has been done justice, I felt, as it needed to be, but the character of the mother is more memorable. She’s strong, trustworthy, adamant, and she has a lot of belief in her daughter. I wanted to read more about her. In contrast, Laksha’s father, while as loving as her mother, is the more worried of the two, which was nice to see. There are very few prominent male characters in this book, I feel. At times, I got confused between two of them, Sai and Prabhu for a reason that another character, Pallavi, stated.

The book is a small one, and does engage me as a reader from the start to the end. And yes, it is a quick read, which I finished in a couple of hours. However, I felt that the editing could have been far better than it is. The casual tone of the dialogues, as told between two friends or teenagers, is a plus point, because when with friends, that would be how we talk, without looking at grammar or tense. However, the same casual tone through the book feels out of place.

Did I enjoy reading the story? Yes. Was I totally wow-ed by it? No. There are aspects of the book that can be fine tuned, and help it to become better. I rate it 3 stars out of 5.

Reviewed by Vinay Leo R.
Source: Own Copy

crime fiction

In Focus: Keigo Higashino's 'Journey Under the Midnight Sun'

3:08:00 PM


      Journey Under The Midnight Sun is Higashino's fourth novel to get an English translation.I absolutely loved his 'The Devotion of Suspect X','The Salvation of a Saint' and 'Malice'.'Journey.....',a crime thriller like it's predecessors,hit the book stores a couple of weeks back. At 520+ pages,this is Higashino's 'thickest' work till date(among his translated works).Hoping to review this book soon...

Here is the book synopsis(from the jacket)-


A twenty-year-old murder
A chain of unsolvable mysteries
Can one detective solve this epic riddle?
When a man is found murdered in an abandoned building in Osaka in 1973, unflappable detective Sasagaki is assigned to the case. He begins to piece together the connection of two young people who are inextricably linked to the crime; the dark, taciturn son of the victim and the unexpectedly captivating daughter of the main suspect. Over the next twenty years we follow their lives as Sasagaki pursues the case - which remains unsolved - to the point of obsession.
Stark, intriguing and stylish, Journey Under the Midnight Sun is an epic mystery by the bestselling Japanese author of The Devotion of Suspect X.

-nikhimenon

book tour

Introducing :First Brush on the Canvas (anthology)

10:44:00 AM


About the Book:
Graham, Daniel, their friendship, life and death.
Vampires, guardians' adventures at night. Coffee, love and a new couple.Imli and her mother in a complex web of darkness. A small town girl confused about virginity. Michael Jaikishen and his writing endeavours.Child adoption by a gay couple.Mahabharat - a modern tale in an epic form.The spine-chilling tale of Tina and Uncle Joe.A juicy love story by our guest author Sujata Parashar. These and many other unputdownable stories in this book.

First Brush on the Canvas is an anthology comprising selected stories from Melonade (2014), a nationwide writing marathon organized by Writersmelon.com.

Goodreads * Amazon



Melonade Authors’ Intro:

Uttiya Roy – Nourished with Bangla literature, he aspires to change the world someday writing in English. His days pass blending Life Science textbooks with poetry. 
UpasanaBhattacharjee– We catch ‘em as young as they get! Our youngest writer is still a student, but that doesn’t reflect in the matured story she’s written dealing with inconclusive logics and paradoxes. 
Stuti Chandra – She writes because she’s alive. This lovely lady is from Patna and has dipped her nose in English Literature at Delhi. 
Shaily Bhargava – A photographer, a logophile and an Equity Technical Analyst – all in one. She reads and writes in Noida, accompanied by beautiful clicks through her lens and lots of Coffee. 
Arunav Chowdhury – Have you met this Proletariat Axomiya before? He’s a movie buff and a news junkie rolled into one, who writes wonderful modern takes on the age old Mahabharat. 
Rafaa Dalvi – A Mumbaikar, an engineer, a blogger and a prolific writer. He’s already made his presence in three anthologies and likes to experiment with different genre. 
DipteeRaut– A quilter, a blogger, a quirky mom, an amazing writer and our co-winner of Melonade’4. She’s one bundle of positive energy who can spin stories and weave quilts simultaneously. 
Abhishek Mukherjee – Have you read his blog posts yet? Though he likes to believe he’s only a Cricket Historian, you have to read his humorous takes on Mythology to believe he’s the best. 
Anwesha Ray – An amazingly sensitive writer, she lives and works in Bangalore with her family. 
AvishekBasuMallick– He’s the winner of Melonade’4. If you wish to laud him for more, he’s an engineer and an MBA, working in Bangalore and a featured writer on Sportskeeda.
ArijitGhose – Blend Carnatic music with exceptional satire and the result is ArijitGhose. Cheeky, expressive and vocal – we hope he becomes a great writer someday. 
Amit Nangia– For those working in MNCs for years, he’s your inspiration. Amit’s first novel has just released after facing many rejections but that didn’t deter him from writing. Climbing the rocks, gliding in a parachute, bungee jumping or making cocktails; nothing could elevate his spirits as much as writing did.
Tnahsin Garg - Tnahsin often exercises his freedom by convincing other folks that ‘free will’ does not exist. His first novel ‘The Prophecy of Trivine’ is a science-fiction based in India.
Sujata Parashar – Author of the immensely popular ‘In Pursuit Of’ trilogy, and a wonderful poet. She contributes articles to various websites and magazines, and is a social activist. She’s a guest author in the book. 


eBook

Just You, Me and a Secret, by Ganga Bharani Vasudevan

8:00:00 PM

Mysteries intrigue me, and I end up playing the sleuth to find out what happened. This book is a mystery, but not one to sleuth. Just You, Me and a Secret is a book where the protagonist Meera is a mystery, not only to me, the reader, but to herself as well. And as she finds out more about herself, so do we. When we first meet Meera, she has woken up in a hospital. She doesn't know who are the people around her, and she doesn't remember anything, not even her own name. She is in the care of Ashruth, a man who says that they were going to marry soon when fate brought that unexpected obstacle in their way. Can she believe him? And will her memory ever return?

This book is a very easy read. It's not light, but the mystery of Meera's life had enough in it to keep me engaged for some time. The author has done justice to her character, and I felt the pathos for her predicament, which is essential. The twists that come with parts of her life coming to light are good, and help in no small amount to keep it interesting. Writing down moments in a journal or diary is useful should one need to revisit them, and I thought introducing "Clara" - Meera's diary/journal was a nice touch.

At times though, Meera's actions to unravel the mystery of herself feel a little unbelievable. And though we see Meera's character come to life with the story, the sub-characters, some of whom are quite important, don't seem that important. The story, which develops nicely in the first part feels hurried towards the end, and perhaps diluted the read a little for me as well. I thought the presentation was a little odd, but I don't know if it was because I read it on the Kindle. Some of these points aren't deal breakers, but the book would definitely improve more with these in mind, I feel.

The language is easy to read, and quite simple, and for this book, I think that worked quite well. All in all, if you're looking for an interesting book to keep you occupied for a few hours, this book might be worth considering. I'll rate it between 3 and 3.5 stars.



3 Stars < Rating < 3.5 Stars
Genre: Love/Mystery

Reviewed by: Vinay Leo R.

This is not a paid review. The opinions expressed are my own and unbiased.

eBook

Milan: A Wedding Story, by Simi K Rao

3:28:00 PM

A simple story can still be interesting if the plot is executed nicely, and the story of the characters engages the reader. Love stories even more so. In India, though love marriages do happen, arranged marriages still rule the roost.

I'll start by applauding the cover design, which is quite grand, like a wedding. This story is of a marriage, where the characters Mili and Ahaan meet after years, slowly fall in love with each other and then get married. The story doesn't have any big twists and turns and flows well. The descriptions are appealing, and does its part to make it easy to imagine the setting.

There is something to like about each character, but that seems to be balanced by some things that don't quite feel enjoyable. Mili's character is fun. She's portrayed as a bubbly girl, with ambitions in a field that's not quite usual. She's a loving daughter as well. Somehow, there's a mystery to her too, and one that could have been a good platform to make the story much more interesting. Instead, the character doesn't get a complete makeover, and feels incomplete. While her dialogues and insecurities feel realistic, they also go beyond a level where the character begins to irk me, and tempts me to skip in between. Ahaan remembers Mili and falls in love with her at first sight, even before meeting her in person. His character feels sweet and determined too, and even at the end, the prince charming who comes gallantly to the rescue. But other than his love, true as it seems, for Mili, not much is revealed of him.

Plot lines that begin for the other smaller characters also feel like they are left open, which is a shame as their characters were interesting too. The parents who want the best for their child, but aren't that forceful when it comes to their vision of her future. The friends who support her, and the story that runs in that small town. The plans the couple have for after marriage.

I didn't finish the story in one sitting, as I thought I would, but it did keep me engaged. Milan is a wedding story. I can't help but wonder if we might see a sequel that reveals more of Mili's life post marriage, and closes those threads that are still open and make me curious to know about them.

I rate it 3 stars.



Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewed by: Vinay Leo R.
Genre: Love Story
Book Source: b00k r3vi3ws blog tour

This is not a paid review. The opinions expressed are my own and unbiased.

Berkley

The Judas Gate, by Jack Higgins

2:37:00 PM

When you read a lot of a particular author, there are favorite characters who begin to appeal to you, and make you want to read more of. In this category is Jack Higgins' hero Sean Dillon. I have read quite a few Sean Dillon thrillers, and felt them to be quite good. When I picked up The Judas Gate, I expected it to be quite good too.

Plot-wise, I think this one's not the best of Higgins, because it starts out with just a recording of the villain expressing something, and the chase based on that. It didn't seem very interesting at all, more like a wild goose chase that puts emphasis on the talents of the wheelchair bound genius Major Giles Roper. The pace seems very slow, unlike many other Sean Dillon based novels I've read, and over time, the characters don't seem very different. Yes, Dillon is brash, and Ferguson is uncaring, but it doesn't come out as easily as before. Even the US President seems to have gone nameless, and Clancy Smith seems more a stranger to the set of characters than usual. Another aspect that is repetitive is the Irish villain. Most of the novels have one Irish bad guy in them, and this is no different. I haven't read the novel where Hannah Bernstein is killed, but the novel misses her character badly. And the action scenes lack punch.

I don't know what to make of this novel, from the perspective of a Sean Dillon fan. I can only hope it's a one-off glitch. I rate it 2 stars.



Rating: 2 Stars

Reviewed by: Vinay Leo R. 
Genre: Fiction/Thriller 
Book Source: Library Copy 

 This is not a paid review. The opinions expressed are my own and unbiased.

Amisha Sethi

It Doesn't Hurt to be Nice, by Amisha Sethi

6:32:00 PM

Compassion is a virtue that's slowly disappearing from the world, I think, but one that is quite important. Only if you give kindness, will you get it back in return. Perhaps that's the notion that makes the title of this book by Amisha Sethi, "It Doesn't Hurt to be Nice" more appealing. The cover is colorful at best, but doesn't do a lot to make the reader curious.

The book is part fiction - the story of Kiara Seth, and the lessons she learns from her life - and part self-help - for it gives you these lessons to imbue. From the time Kiara is born, to the time she's in college, falls in love, gets married, has kids... and takes a big step in her life. Each chapter focuses on one lesson, and how she came by it. These are quite interesting lessons, but ones that I think, we already know to some extent. What makes it different from other books perhaps is that this story makes it easier to relate to, so we don't stray too far from our lives. It's Kiara's story that keeps the lessons interesting. Another thing I liked were the quotes at the start of the chapters. The illustrations also manage to add a touch of humor in what might tend to be a lesson oriented approach.

Given that it is Kiara's story that keeps it interesting, the lessons that are at the beginning of each chapter don't make as big an impact. They are interesting in the first few chapters, but lose their intensity toward the conclusion. I think the haphazard chronology might be a reason for that. When you see a chapter that has only the lesson, and none of Kiara's story, it shows the hurry, I feel. How the story ends, I feel, doesn't go with what was put across a page ago. It adds to the confusion as well.

The story comes across to the reader well, and the language is not difficult to follow. I cannot say it changed my life, but it has interesting lessons. I'd say it rates somewhere between 3.5 stars and 4 stars, but not quite a 4 star book in my opinion.



3.5 Stars < Rating < 4 stars

Reviewed by: Vinay Leo R.
Genre: Fiction/Self-Help
Publishers: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Book Source: Publisher

This is not a paid review. The opinions expressed are my own and unbiased.

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