Dec 19, 2015

Peculiar... in deed

One of the problems of being an avid reader is that when someone tells you that there exists a highly underrated book comparable to all your famous fav one's... you kind of get hooked into reading it. And THAT can cause heartache.

I picked this one up, coz one of the FB articles about underrated books that fantasy fans should read. It was a Buzzfeed viewers choice list (click here) and this one was on it.... and luckily I was in a bookstore that showcased this one prominently. It was like the book wanted me to read it. So, I ended up picking this up, along with a few other staple authors.... (i.e. Devdutt Pattnaik and Ruskin Bond)

The book cover is creepy, with a levitating girl on it... the back cover is intriguing... hinting at supernatural leanings...the style of the books is like nothing I've seen before... story intermingled with creepy old vintage photographs... I had SKY HIGH expectations from this one...that's probably why I think I felt so miserable after reading this.

I'm a super fan of  creepy supernatural stuff. And I expect my spooky novels to be really that...spooky. This one held a good promise till about the time Jacob explores the basement with all its crazy, creepy body-parts in formaldehyde. And then the whole book takes the turn that makes it turn into an episode of Supernatural meets CSI. And my heart plummeted to the basement.

The story is nice. The developments are strictly ok. I found it hard to connect with the characters...somehow they were better as photographs. Its very hard to synch with these children. I've read enough YA to know that MY AGE doesn't hinder my enjoyment of the text...Percy, and Harry are proof enough of those. But for some reason Jacob and his band of Peculiar children didn't fit the bill. I did manage to finish reading them, but I know I'm not purchasing the second book in series.

Dec 10, 2015

Faithless by Karin Slaughter

Faithless (Grant County, #5)Faithless by Karin Slaughter
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Let me admit... this is the only book I read of this author. Which also means, I haven't read any other Grant County books. I didn't even know that this is series book till I finished the book and reached the Author interview at the back.

In all fairness, throughout the book I did keep feeling that there's a larger plot that I'm missing out on. The characters couldn't reach me because they are always carried forward from an earlier "to be continued" narrative. And that ticks me off. This isn't my first experience at reading a book out of sequence, but this is the first one that I regretted reading.

The story is nice, but it didn't leave any impact on me. As a reader, it failed to connect I believe, if I look at the actual crime story in the holds up good. The additional information, about Sara and her ex-non-ex husband, Lenna and all others... is really distracting without adding anything to the current storyline. Ofcourse those who have read the earlier one's the additional information matters and makes sense.

Despite the core story of the novel, being a good one; I found the narrative lacking. The development of the story sometimes feels like having given lesser importance than the background / additional 'to be cntd' stuff. The events even when they have the potential to be shocking, unfold in the most un-shockingly manner. The climax of the whole novel is kind of better, however the motive of the perpetrator is simply too shaky to truly believe or agree on. Especially the link / relationship between the perpetrator and his lieutenant is really the point of being unimpressive. I still don't know why they both worked together, and how could they do all that they did. Doesn't make sense. It should've been elaborated further.

Author has some really rave reviews and I was kind of hoping to find a new author to add to my reliable authors list... She did seem like a good choice....Sad thing is... reading this one, I don't think I want to read the rest of the series.

View all my reviews

Oct 21, 2015

Magnus Chase.... Gods of Asgard are here...

image courtesy:
Rick Riordan is one of my go-to authors. He has provided me and my over active brain jewels like Percy Jackson, Jason Grace and Kane Chronicles. He has a very fluid way of writing that keeps you glued to the words on the paper (yes, I read on paperback)

Although, I'll be first to admit that I wasn't really sure I was going to read the latest by Mr. Riordan...coz let's be truthful... I'm clueless about Norse Mythology... I mean, I didn't even watch Thor, the movie. But, as luck would have it... I saw the book in a bookshop when I was out with a few gal-pals of mine, and ended up buying it.

True to Mr. Riordan's style... this one is written in a first person dialogue of a sixteen year old protagonist, Magnus Chase. And Magnus is one sarcastic dude. Possibly because of his homeless experience...but he has a biting humour and probably the worst luck in all the heroes / demigods/ magicians put together. I mean, the dude actually died before the story even took speed.

My lack of knowledge of Norse Mytho didn't hinder my reading experience. And that is Mr. Riordan's success. His characters are much more than just a Norse Demi-gods with unspeakable titles. (Sorry guys...I really can't remember titles and names... they're tongue twisters) Instead, the characters are relate-able, refreshing and frankly quite funny. They make being dead, look COOL.

The development of the story is filled with unanswered questions..that you know will evolve to unfold the tapestry of the larger 'plot'....but no where during this seed planting do you lose out of what is happening currently... I especially like Magnus (I guess more than Carter) because he also like me, finds the Norse names way to confusing and hence comes with his own names of things / objects / animals.... Jack, Stanley etc. Narration of this book flows without breaks even when you are a clueless about the Norse worlds... especially coz Magnus is also clueless and others keep handing out info as and when required. I especially liked the climax of the story (not the book, mind you). Fenris, is by all means what you expect and everything you don't expect. I mean....Heather...?? Really?? However, I did like the spin that closed the climax. It was fun, unusual and very unexpected.

This one has all that you come to expect from the "Creator of Percy Jackson" and this is even better... Kind of like Mr. Riordan is getting better with practice...and funnier also.

Those of you who have read and enjoyed (not watched and enjoyed, mind you).. will love this one too. Those who have not read, can still enjoy it. It was a great strategy for Riordan to NOT have Thor in forefront of the first novel... coz now that I've read and enjoyed this one... I am looking forward to the second instalment which I know is about the 'Mjolnir' which officially is not missing...

Aug 25, 2015

Black Friday....

I'm a certified fiction person. I don’t enjoy reading biographies…auto or non.  I don't like reading about tragic events and I definitely run away from the all the rise of the phoenix kind of stuff. So why did I pick up a book that epitomizes all that I do NOT read? In a single word… curiosity.

I picked Black Friday up on the same week that Yakub Memon was hanged. The outcry and hue that the media raised after that, was partially responsible for me for picking this one up, and rest of it was because I had given the author a try previously. S. Hussain Zaidi had authored the only other True Crime / Investigative novel I had read in my life…. From Dongri to Dubai. I loved the way he wrote that one. It was informative without being dragging. And it chronicles the underworld of Mumbai in words that is enlightening without raising it to hero-worship like some movies do. Hence, I was in a positive mindset when I picked up Black Friday.

What I did not know when I picked it up though, was that I was about to get myself into a whirlwind of emotions. I'm a Mumbaikar. I’m born and raised in this city. And even after spending months together away from this city, I can never call any other city….Home. At the same time, I'm a Hindu. I might not be devout follower of rituals or idol worship, but I'm a firm believer of the teachings of Hinduism. If there is one thing that I have learned being in this city is that this city keeps all close to her heart. It doesn't matter what religion you belong to, if you are ready to “work”, this city will reward you. Of Course, I know of the horrific things that had come to pass in the city that never sleeps. Though, I  was very young when the riots and blasts came to pass, I know this city is not immune to communal disharmony. However I know this city doesn't hold grudges. The city rewards those who work. And no matter how many times the ill-wishers try to make it come to a halt, the city bounces back on her legs.

When you read Black Friday, one thing that kept running through my mind, was that I don’t understand the people behind it all. Anywhere in the world when religious people do heinous crimes in the name of the religion, I find myself cringing. For the life of me, I can’t ever understand the whole “dying for your faith” funda. During the pages when Mr. Zaidi writes about events that led to the blasts, and aftermath of the blasts, I could not really relate to the emotions of those who plotted it all. (I understand I shouldn't relate to them, but…)

The book is scary. For someone like me, who believes in a black and white life…the idea that life could be disturbed and destroyed in a flash of a few mins is scary. As I mentioned earlier, I was very young when the riots and blasts actually happened. Living those moments through the words of Mr. Zaidi was a nerve wrecking experience. The planning, the execution, the brainwashing and work that was put  in making the blasts happen, is too complicated for simple words. The feeling that mostly you feel is dread, while marveling at the sheer belief that propelled them to complete such a feat; Relief to know that the plan was to execute these in more than one city, which could not happen. You feel the pain of those who suffered during and after blasts. Those whose lives were changed, those who changed themselves.

The book also brings forward one very overshadowed aspect of the whole deal. Mumbai Police Force. They are blamed, they are cursed. They have been flayed by media and common man. What the book shows is despite what we like to believe, Mumbai Police is a commendable force. Are they super efficient? May be not. Are they on top of the things? May be not always. Are they a force to be reckoned with? May be not that too. But they did, and continue to do an admirable job given the amount of things they had to handle. Urgency of the situation, media pressure, political biases and image in public. Add to that lack of infra and experience. The work that the Mumbai Police did, is nothing less than commendable. The sheer amount of paperwork that Mr. Zaidi had to read (the details are in the epilogue), shows the enormous effort that police had to put in.

What was infuriating was, that even after such an intensive work that Police put, the treatment that this case was given by our judiciary system. The delays, the gimmicks and tactics put in to stretch the time taken for justice…it’s infuriating and very heartbreaking. Whether the time taken is justified? NOPE. Could this have been done faster? More effectively? DEFINITELY YES.

So, coming to the conclusion.

Do I like the book? Yes, and No. Yes, because its informative. No, because it raises wayyyyy too many questions that no one can answer. (Like what makes people die for their faith? How come faith is more important than innocent lives? etc)

Do I recommend the book to others? Yes. For exactly the reason why I don’t like the book, I recommend this to others. These questions need to be raised in minds. Only then, can we stop fighting.

Jun 12, 2015

The Tournament.... MR novel that sooooooo not like MR...

Do you love a particular author? Why do you love that one? For the writing style? Genre? Flow of the stories? Character development? Uniqueness of the storyline? There could be a lot of reasons, why you love a certain author. And when the author you love, changes gear and writes about something you didn't expect… do you still love him/her with same intensity?

As I've professed on multiple occasions… I LOVE Matthew Reilly. This Australian firework of an author is the one whose work reads like an action movie. A well executed, out of the world, thrill inducing, adrenaline pumping hardcore ACTION movie. I love his flare of unusual storylines. The ease with which his characters step out of the pages and make you, lose your breath just by reading the amazing things they are doing. He is the guy who is master of cliffhangers. He is the author that has brought to his readers at the edge of the seats and made is perfectly normal to read sentences like “Dragons are hurling trucks at me”… J so when he came out with a book about a Chess Tournament that was held in 1500’s… it makes me wonder, if I should really pick it up… so the paperbound sat on my shelf for a long long time.looking at me with pleading eyes, urging to me reach out and read through its pages, immerse myself in words of my fav author… and I kept averting my gaze, reaching out and picking books above and below…forever running away from the ‘possibility’ of a disappointment. (I must confess here that I was avoiding it coz I REALLY thought it was ABOUT chess, and I'm really hopeless when it comes to strategy games)

I finally picked this up when I was on my way back from Prague. (I know it’s a delayed review, but I was really busy with other ‘stuff’). It took me a little over a 12 days to finish the book. It does NOT talk about the quality of book though…it simply owing to my hectic schedule and lack of personal time that caused this duration.

It is a Matthew Reilly fiction for sure. There are a lot of MR special things in it. There’s mystery. There’s intrigue.  There’s adrenaline and there’s action. However, this is a very different MR. The mystery is wailed, intrigue mingled with unease, action subdued. Possibly because he was writing about historical figures. Possibly because this was not a hardcore action. Possibly because of the period of the book. Or may be, just may be because this is the first ‘first-person’ book MR has written in a female voice. I cant really pinpoint what it is about this book that makes it different. There’s an undercurrent in the whole novel that keeps you uneasy throughout. The novel is as much about politics as it is about murder mystery and equally about shaping of a young female mind as anything else. True to his style, he writes it with a flow that makes it unputdownable. However there are elements in the story that disgust you, make you want to recoil in unease… corruption of state and god-men is nothing new, but seeing it from the eyes of teenager makes it more uncomfortable I guess. The world MR builds is equally realistic and true…. In the past and in present… and it’s THAT timelessness of corruption of man that makes you sad. Had I known that the novel will make want to sit with my head in my hands upon finishing it; I might have not picked it up when I did. But at no point during and after reading it, am I regretting reading it. The book is a mature book. Compared to all his other works, this one is the most unsettling one. I swear, I did not expect that from his books. And now as I write this review, I realize that I expected from him a Vin Diesel action flick while he thrust upon me a Clint Eastwood classic. Am happy.

There are a lot of elements in this novel that are not appropriate for immature reader. And please note, that I say immature not young…. It’s a sensitive novel and people with childish disposition might not appreciate what the novel tries to convey. For a change, MR writes a novel that truly has a message… J how delightful is THAT?

Verdict: don’t expect the regular fireworks of Matthew Reilly novels. There is no end-of-the-world battle and fancy villain and dashing hero. The battleground here is the mind and hero is courage and brain-power. Touch this only if you want to be reformed and question your beliefs… read only if you think you are ready to be mature.

Jun 2, 2015

My son called me Hidimba.

On the outset, the exclamation my son made in the spur of moment, stunned me. With normal stigma attached to the word and background of the she-demon. The name Hidimba (or sometimes referred as Hidimbi) usually sprouts images of dark, rough, huge, theoretically ugly she-demon that met the Pandavas while they were fleeing their cousin’s evil plot of burning them in the Lakshagruha (the house made of lacquer). This she-demon helped Pandavas in killing her own brother who shared her name (i.e. Hidimb) and then bore a son with third Pandav, Bheem.

Like all normal people, the name of the she-demon brings forth only images of ugly out of shape strange looking females that are used to portray her in the TV serials and movies. And the stigma of her being a demon hits you first when her name is uttered.
However, when my son called me Hidimba… I was forced to look at her in new light.

My 3.5 year old is very keen toon watcher. But instead of watching the popular Tom & Jerry, Shinchan or Doreamon, he has gotten into a habit of watching mytho stories. He is enthralled by the age old charm of magic and magicians, demons and sorcerers and gods. Like a sponge is absorbs the stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat. He remembers and quotes the characters like Jatayu and Sampati from Ramayan, better than most adults I’ve known. A few days back, since he has exhausted most of Ramayan and a big chunk of Mahabharat… I introduced him to Ghatotkach. The son that Hidimba bore to Bheem.

Ghatotkach is one of the underappreciated heros of the epic. He is a master of many magical abilities and prior to the battle of Kurukshetra has had a very eventful childhood. He is best remembered for saving life of Arjun on the battlefield of Kusukshetra. But other than that, he isn’t very popular in the day-to-day lore of the Mahabharata.

The movie that I gave to my son to watch is a beautiful rendition of Ghatotkach’s early years. His formative years. Years when he was honing his magical skills. Making friends with animals in the jungle. Learning to fight. Learning compassion and helping others. Years that shaped him to be what his mother wanted him to be…. A great warrior…a hero. Like most of the females in the great epic, Hidimba is also mentioned when she is useful to the five brothers and their mother. (can you tell, I don’t like the protagonists of the Epic, yet?) However, despite being a single mother (Bheem being busy playing politics with his cousins and plotting revenge for his “other” wife, Darupadi)… Hidimba raises her son to love and respect his father. Raises her only son and teaches him all arts that she knows of… including magic and combat.

The movie shows Ghatotkach learning how to wield his weapons, and combat skills from him mother. For a 3.5 year old, who has seen his mother bringing him bow and arrow and the traditional Gada (a mace)… seeing hero of a film learning how to fight from his mother, is the epitome of kool. She tells stories to Ghatotkach at  night. And listens to him making demands of a certain story, and then relenting to his wishes after some protest. She feeds him and asks him to be careful when he is on his way out to play. She scolds him when he isn’t back on time and even does a little fight when he gets in trouble. Ghatotkach like any other … is very dedicated to his mom. He not only learns from her, but also troubles her enough for her to lose patience with him once in a while.

Why is it any wonder that my son, called me Hidimba? J

For those who are still stuck on the stigma of her being a she-demon… here’s how I see Hidimba.

A single mother, who is raising a strong confident son, overseeing a kingdom, no matter how small. She is a strong, independent woman who knows her place and has clear dreams and plans for her and her son’s life. She is working her way to make the dreams come true, following the plans that will see her enjoying the fruitarian of her goals. She is what every woman, I know should aspire to be. Someone who loves deeply, is ready to take risks for that love. Someone who has a dream and works towards making that dream come true. She is happy if she has the support, but doesn’t crumble if the support is missing. She has a son that she loves and who loves her…is devoted to her that on her words he marches into the battle… though the “battle” bit is a bit extreme from where I see it… I still find her to be an admirable character. Like many other unsung females in the Epic… she strums the strings of my heart in a very strong manner. And when I see her from my son’s eyes… I’m glad that my son chose her name to call me with…. J

May 18, 2015

Fiction Overload

Ash Mistry…

I agree, I'm a big fat sucker for fantasy. I love reading about impossible things. Beautiful beasts and frightening monsters. Devious villains and gallant heroes. Supernatural elements and magical twists. No wonder authors like Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson fame) and JRRT (LOTR….)are few of my fav authors. I devoured HP while I was in college. I still remember being in one of my pre-university exam prep lectures and reading  HP without caring what the prof was talking about. 10 years have passed, but nothing in me has changed when it comes to reading fiction. I've read Percy and the Heroes of Olympus series sitting in office, sometimes at client location. J (nothing to be proud of to be truthful)

So when I was feeling down last week, I browsed through Amazon for something new and exciting. And that’s when Amazon suggested, I should take a look at Ash Mistry series. Amazon says….

Rick Riordan did it for Greece. Now Sarwat Chadda does it for India… Book two in the incredible action-adventure trilogy about Ash Mistry, reluctant hero and living weapon of the death goddess Kali.
When something is sold with that introduction, how come one like me NOT pick it up?

Past few days have been nothing but mayhem for me. Workload was making me want to quit, and people driving me mad. It was a time of great unrest and personally a very low time. It was time for a boost and Ash did just that.

True to the introduction that Amazon offers, this is truly something that will appeal to the Rick Riordan fans. India is land of mystery and intrigue, where gods are still very much a part of the daily life of most of the population. We believe that they exists and we trust that they do exist amongst us in day-to-day life. For Indians, god isn’t about the entity that stays on a pedestal and looks down upon the mere mortals, but rather they are incarnations of the great power that live, breathe and strive amongst us. We believe that the great are incarnations of the Gods and Gods are personified as friends, philosophers and even lovers in popular myths. For someone who is born and brought up in India with myths about devotees getting married with their patron gods (like Mira), and god waiting outside the house of their devotees for the devotee to finish his chores (like Vittal and Pundalik)… it’s perfectly acceptable that the Goddess of Death and Time…. Kali can chose a 15 year old boy warrior to be her weapon.

Ash Mistry is a very believable little boy. He is pampered little brat who loves his family, out on holiday in India. Surrounded by mysterious people in the heart of India’s religious hub, Varanasi. He is pulled into the magical world of sacrifice hungry Gods, immortal demons and plans of world domination. The idea of Rakshasa in Indian Mytho is such a colorful concept, and Sarwat Chadda uses them to the fullest. This is a very quirky little author (check his blog), to look out for. The guy has a flair for action. He has a head for the myths and does an excellent job of creating a hero that is superbly relatable and lovable. Of course he didn't have to make the demons so weird, but I guess it works in the overall theme of the story.

This is a book series that feeds people like me with all the necessities of life. there’s mystery, there’s magic, there’s a hero struggling to become a hero, there’s the badass villain and the plans for world dominations, there’s mysterious teachers and there’s the every lasting theme of family, responsibilities, love and friendships… with a dash of mistrust, intrigue and a little backstabbing mixed with some fast paced action (this coming from me is a BIG deal, trust me… I’m a MR fan)…. So, all in all…what’s not to like?

If you have ever found yourself lost in the world of HP / LOTR / Percy Jackson… then Ash Mistry is the series for you. Doesn't matter if your Hindu mytho is rusty… there’s enough info in the books to make up for it. So, get of your backside, pick this one up… or download from Amazon and READ… phsss.... I read all three books in less than 8 days...

Jan 12, 2015

The Dark Witch....

There are a few words that demand attention, paranormal being one, love or romance being the other. When you have an author that brings both these two together with mastery, the reader in me finds itself in heaven.

Works by Nora Roberts has been one of my comfort reads for a long time. From the very first novel I picked up almost a decade back till the latest one which was gifted to me on my birthday; the words that come out of her pen has held my attention without fail. As a rule, I don’t review her novels. I believe when you review it should be unbiased. It should contain good, bad and ugly of the product. But since I love everything she writes, writing an unbiased review gets harder. So when I finished reading Dark Witch, I said to myself… No review this time. It’s time to write impressions. My impressions of the works by one of my favourite author. So here it goes…

There is a surefire way to get a successful fiction. There has to be an unquestionably lovable protagonist, much better if female. Then there is the threat. Sometimes it’s just a person usually with a hidden agenda to hurt, sometimes it’s more. Then comes to polar opposite of the protagonist. Handsome devil with deep-rooted troubles. The inevitable friction between both. Tension of all kind flaring up. Face offs and fights. Then comes the clichéd interaction, usually ending in locked lips. Enter the threat and push the newly budding romance into trouble. The big climax when threat is overcome by force usually. And then everyone lives happily ever after.

When it comes to Nora Roberts, you get to see all the above… and in most cases… three fold. Like the people she writes about in her novels… she believes three to be a magical number. So, most of her works are trilogies. There are some series also… 4 books but usually the pattern remains the same. A protagonist, a polar opposite, attraction, friction, threat and big face-off and triumph. Usually the trilogy features a big threat and three smaller. One for each of her heroines and one for all of them combined to fight against. For a normal author maintaining grip over the reader across three different lives becomes harder. To keep it all consistent is harder. But when it comes to Nora Roberts… she effortlessly manages to do the same work after work. I've adored a number of her trilogies and series. Devoured them in single seating at times. And still craved for more.

True to all the clichés and drama, this one delivers a power packed read. From the very first page, you find yourself being lured to the charm of the magical country that is Ireland. Sorcha and her battle with  Cabhan is as gripping as any fairytale might be. True to the fairytale the dark is banished and the white or the good triumphs. Or so we think. Sorcha is no more but her legacy is passed through to hers and theirs. And then fast forward to time and meet the three that will take on the final battle. These three are as varied as they can get. One is all vulnerability, one is all about control, and third is all about living it up. There’s love and care and family ties. Friends who are better or closer than family. There are ties to animals and magic to bind it all.

Of course, you will like it all only if you are open to accept a novel that is set in modern times but still believes in magic and astral projection and time jumps. If you are OK with the idea that there are things that can drag you in dreams and hurt you physically in reality. And of course you will like it only if you believe that love is the strongest magic of it all.