Sunday, August 27, 2017

Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer

Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita
Immortalised in the hymns of the Rig Veda
But largely forgotten to the memory of India
Is the Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala

 The reason i like to read mythological fiction is that it gives me a chance to know of the stories that are not popular and hence are not narrated or passed to our generations. Even if the stories are fictionalized or mixed with other tales from that time / era , it is still another addition to my knowledge of stories of the ancient India. 

Avishi is story of the girl , destined for great things in her  life and so is rescued by foresight of great Maharishi Vahini who silently guards and guides everyone onto their paths.  After the death of her father , Avishi is brought up in the ashram of Naimisha , the learning center and center of dharma in the enchanted forest. There she becomes a warrior and when time comes , she sets out to fulfill her destiny and her duty to the kingdom where she was born. she was after all, to be the queen. What is most remarkable part of this narrative is how the author has added other aspect of the life of those times. I would not want to give spoilers or mention some of the research areas but be assured that you will learn a lot about the evolution of society and knowledge while reading this book. 

The references mentioned in the end  of the book are an indication how well thought and crafted this book is. Apart from telling the story of Avishi , it is a book that has some important lessons to offer in terms of leadership and keeping a community close. Much thought was given to the conversations and the strategic part of the story.

And now to the flaws , i totally disliked the story arc of Avishi's mate Satya in the middle of the book. Also , his character , though him being a genius with herbs was not much likeable. Plus the climax was a little stretched out and after reading the book , you would expect better fight scene. That scene looked unreal to me , unlike the rest of the story.

But this is just me having high expectation from the author perhaps ;) 

My rating : 4/5

Saturday, August 26, 2017

What Kitty did by Trisha Bora

Kitty , whose real name i almost missed in the book unless i realized , she was Ketaki ( i thought she was trying to give a false name :|) is the only daughter of a successful creative lady and an adorably dotting dad who is a professor. With some amazing friends , roommate , ex-bf , and a current love interest , this story is a fun read for most parts. Reading Kitty's survival and mis-adventures across different Delhi parts gives the reader a good idea of this city - both the high and low of it . Since, I am from the city and having seen most of it , the stuff was a little cliched but endearing in its own way. More than that , I loved the way Kitty has a thing to say for everyone and mostly herself. She is not too flattering about anyone , but in a real sort of way , her dialogues and reactions were witty and spot on. Also, I had a little issue with the way she wasn't a responsible person when drunk , nor her friends too keen to address that any time or be aware of it. That felt unlike friends.

What Kitty Did , though appears to be a thriller from the blurb , the thriller part is actually the reason this book falls a little short of the wow factor.The whole cast and plot for the mystery section of the book looks incomplete and hurried. the multitude of  characters do not allow even one of them to be explored and presented in detail - not even the victim. Why Kitty gets involved in it , might be understood but how she figures it all out and why the murder happened , is still not too clear to me.

The writing is fresh , breezy and definitely honest. The book, has some real good observations and quotes on life and friends , my favorite being-

What you need in life is a set of friends. Loyal as dogs, frothing-at-the-mough-to-stic-up-for-you friends. Without that , you're a goner.

My rating : 3.5/5

Friday, August 25, 2017

#FaveFive – Book Siblings

Till I graduated from college ,I never had a much meaningful bond with my siblings. Or perhaps I never thought much about it. But that did not avoid me developing a notion of how the bond should be or could be ideally. And that was partially due to the below book siblings I adored and loved -

1. Hardy Boys - I have had a huge crush on Frank Hardy since forever but together with Joe , this sibling pair made me fall in love with reading. I can still read any if their books anytime and hope to actually gather the whole collection some day.

2. Little Women - This book is my bible into adulthood and growing up, I had a lot of inspiration from March sisters. Each one if them has her won charm and character and a way to live but how to complement each other is what they do best. And I loved that.  It taught me to be acceptable of my flaws and of people around me , and rather focus on the good in them

3. The Famous five - The four characters always were considered as one set of siblings by me. I discovered this series when I was in college but I have enjoyed the adventures and the settings samuchit as a kid. I loved Anne , the planner and caretaker sort of personal arched totally with mine.How I wish I could go on a picnic like these kids and have the summer vacations once again.

4. And the mountains echoed - This was my first Hosseini book and oh boy,it broke my heart when Abdullah is separated from his sister Pari. The way he feels her absence and the climax when they meet again ,while Abdullah has no memory left of her ,it made me shed a few years. This sibling pair will always be fresh in my mind.

5. The thirteenth tale - I am suddenly reminded of this book since I recommended it to some one recently. If you have not read this book, you MUST. It's a story of two sisters living in a farm and how tragedy strikes one of them. The other becomes a famous writer whose life is a big mystery to all. This book gave me the creeps and is so hauntingly narrated.

Of course I had wanted to add the Weasly brothers here , but I think you all already love them .

Monday, August 21, 2017

#CoverReveal AWAKEN by Ashok Banker


Gods of war was the first book I read by Ashok Banker. That time I was not even aware of the fantasy / mythology genre. I loved the boom a lot and since ,I have not missed any of the paperback that came out. I also have the subscription tonsite that am yet to use ( Must check if it's still working)

The Haters are coming to destroy all life on Earth. It is not a question of if, but when. 

The Brahmaand has already rung the warning bell and the awakening of the Preservers has begun.

First in the thrilling Shakti Trilogy set in contemporary India, Ashok Banker’s action-packed and brilliantly imagined Awaken introduces our unlikely heroes who must discover and harness their superpowers before they can protect and preserve the Earth from the wrath of a menacing alien invasion.

Ashok Banker is the internationally acclaimed author of over sixty published books which have sold over three million copies in twenty-one languages and sixty-one countries. He has been credited as the pioneer of Indian crime fiction in English and with launching the genre of mythological retellings, India’s biggest-selling publishing category.

Awaken is the first book in the Shakti Trilogy.  The Shakti Trilogy continues with Book II ASSEMBLE (November 2017) and Book III ARISE (January 2018).

  Pre-order your copy here 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer #ReleaseDayBlitz #Exceprt

Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita
Immortalised in the hymns of the Rig Veda
But largely forgotten to the memory of India
Is the Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala

Brought up in the pristine forest school of Naimisha, Avishi reaches the republic of Ashtagani in search of her destiny. When Khela, the oppressive King of the neighbouring Vrishabhavati begins to overwhelm and invade Ashtagani, Avishi rises to protect her settlement. But peril pursues her everywhere.
Separated from her love, her settlement broken, with a brutal injury needing amputation of her leg, can Avishi overcome Khela?

Read an Excerpt

“I am the Queen! This will be my throne!” The seven-year-old chirped leaping from the middle of the porch towards the broken mortar which served as a mock throne. “You will be my guard!”
“Guard?” the man pondered scratching his unkempt beard. 
“No.” He shook his head and smiled seeing her indignant eyes. “I will be the Queen’s elephant.” He beamed.
Sukratu stepped out of the house to see his daughter in action, perching herself on the tramp Loha’s back, pretending in all earnestness that he was her elephant. He smiled and was about to set out for his duty as the night guard of the King. A sudden lightning appeared in the eastern skies. Sukratu had barely walked a few paces when a deafening thunder made him instinctively turn towards home. He heaved a sigh, finding Loha shielding the girl as if he would, his own child. 
“Father, don’t go.” The girl pleaded. 
Sukratu smiled and shifted his gaze towards the sky. He saw dark clouds loom over the city. The monsoon winds had started to make their presence felt. He had to reach the palace soon. “Isn’t my little Queen brave?” He called out. 
The girl nodded. He saw the fear fade. From her eyes. From her heart. She knew she was the queen! Pride filled his heart. His mind ached to stay home but duty beckoned. Tearing his gaze away from the one he treasured the most in his life, braving the drizzle that would soon turn into a storm, he unwillingly walked towards the King’s residence. Sukratu’s house was in the third ring of the concentric structure of Vrishabhavati. In the centre, was the structure, that served as the residence of the king and as the centre of all trade activity of the city. Here no wealth or goods could change hands without the king’s knowledge and approval. The residences of the noblemen formed the two rings around it. The guards and soldiers forming the outermost circle with the citizens living around them. 
As per the protocol, Sukratu approached General Ugra’s residence quite ahead of his reporting time— an hour before the moonrise. He walked into the empty courtyard. But the rain made it impossible for him to stand there any longer. He knocked at the giant wooden door fervently. The doors creaked as a strange woman clad in a dark indigo garment opened them and glared at him with a frown on her forehead. 
General Ugra, Sukratu knew was never faithful to one woman. His superior’s romantic exploits were not his concern either. But something about the woman at the door disconcerted him. “Please let General Ugra know that…”
“He has already left for the palace!” The woman frowned before attempting to shut the door. 
“What? How ca…” Sukratu’s words hung in air as the door slammed on his face and the woman disappeared from his line of vision all of a sudden. Something did not feel right. He knocked at the door again. Firmly this time, as though seeking answers. Any change in the reporting time would have been announced the day before and he remembered that nothing of the sort had happened. His knocks went unanswered. Frowning and muttering under his breath, Sukratu hurried towards an empty cowshed three houses away from Ugra’s place hoping to catch his companions who he knew would be equally surprised. 
The first to arrive was Khela, the eighteen-year-old guard, holding a metal shield above his head. The newest addition to the King’s guard, Khela was related to General Ugra and Sukratu felt that his position in the King’s guard was largely a result of undue favours that Ugra showered upon an otherwise impudent boy. 
“Sukratu! By the great Varuna, I should have come to you earlier!” Khela hurried towards him. Pausing for breath, he added. “Our platoon has been given a relief tonight! It was a sudden decision and I personally informed all the others.”
“Relief for tonight? That happens only when…”
“Our guarding hours change from night to day!” Khela completed in a hurry. “Now, come with me.” He turned towards the western direction and the javelin he held started to sway dangerously and came close to grazing Sukratu’s arm. 
The older guard’s instincts made him dodge the cut. “Where?” Sukratu hissed, visibly annoyed, first with the fact that he was kept in dark about the change in guarding hours and then about Khela’s irreverent behaviour. “And watch who your weapon hurts, boy.”

He raced to the King’s residence, as fast as his legs could carry him. The huge wooden gates of the structure were closed and secured from inside. The rain lashed drowning his cries. Misgivings regarding the King’s welfare made him shudder. He had to meet General Ugra. Something told him that the General had his own reasons to send the whole platoon of guards to enjoy a drunk night. He was a guard who had sworn to protect the King with his life. The general owed him an answer. Sukratu rushed to General Ugra’s house determined to confront him. 
That, Sukratu realized was the biggest mistake of his life. 
At the gates of the general’s residence he saw a familiar figure hurrying out of his house, a heavy bundle on his shoulders. “General Ugra!” he called out, feeling relieved. 
The figure started, and the bundle fell to the ground. Sukratu came to a sudden halt as he realized it wasn’t a bundle after all, but a blood-drenched corpse. A stroke of lightning from the sky revealed the face and the very familiar greying curls. Sukratu froze for a long moment before he could speak.
 “K... King...”
“Finish him!” The General shout behind him.

About the Author:
Saiswaroopa is an IITian and a former investment analyst turned author. Her keen interest in ancient Indian history, literature and culture made her take to writing. Her debut novel Abhaya, set in the times of Mahabharata was published in 2015. Avishi, her second novel set in Vedic India explores the legend of India’s first mentioned female warrior queen Vishpala.
She holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She is also trained in Carnatic Classical music and has won a state level gold medal from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Sacred Sword by Hindol Sengupta

This is the second book of Hindol Sengupta that I read and he is becoming a name to recommend for all mythology lovers.

This story is of course a fictionalized version of the last guru of Sikhs,Guru Govind Singh but it is a remarkably inspiring and awe worthy account. His life has great many lessons to learn from and more than that ,the conviction he showed in uniting the clan and fighting the Mughal on behalf of all is a story I was unaware of.

Hindol has beautifully added the poetry - Punjabi and Englisher both into this narrative . It also helps that Sikhism and the beginning of the khalsa was and has never been a fight for religious supremacy but of freedom from one such dular who wanted to convert all to his religion.

This book is a good way to know our traditions , the heroes and the sacrifice so many made to keep us a free community centuries ago. It is time to revive those lessons and this book does that job well. Even treating as fiction, the story hooks you right from the start.

Quite enjoyable read with a few unnecessary scenes probably.

My rating : 4/5

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