Thursday, August 14, 2014

#BookReview: When Mr. Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

On the jacket:


Dylan Mint has Tourette’s. For Dylan, life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in – the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that escapes whenever he gets stressed. And, as a sixteen-year-old virgin and pupil at Drumhill Special School, getting stressed is something of an occupational hazard.   But then a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he's going to die next March.   So he grants himself three parting wishes: three ‘Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It’.  It isn’t a long list, but it is ambitious, and he doesn't have much time. But as Dylan sets out to make his wishes come true, he discovers that nothing – and no-one – is quite as he had previously supposed.  A story about life, death, love, sex and swearing, When Mr Dog Bites will take you on one *#@! of a journey . . .

Review:

Even though these days grown ups read a lot of YA fiction, I am not particularly fond of this genre. I have lliked maybe 1 or 2, but those were really good. When Mr. Dog Bites is different. Superbly different. YA fiction this might be, but it has a heart and a soul.

We have Dylan Mint, a 16 years old but not one bit your average teen. At one point of time, he thought he is going to die in a few months. So, with very less time left to live, he plans his life. And what happens really. A phenomenal tale with humour and a lot of heartfelt stages, this story is about Dylan who has the most hilarious outburts. His best friend Amit is autistic and is extremely adorable.

Dylan is a character easy to love but difficult to forget. He is adorable, someone you would want to keep for yourself. Dylan and Amir's friendship is cute and their school life interesting and relatable. 

Rating: *****/5

[This review is for Bloomsbury India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

#BookReview: Dead in a Mumbai Minute (Reema Ray #2) by Madhumita Bhattacharyya

On the jacket:


A private island, a bottle of ridiculously expensive wine, a late-night party hosted by a glamorous diva … for Reema Ray, this is not a taste of the good life -- it’s a matter of life or death.   As a private detective in Calcutta she had impressed maverick security expert Shayak Gupta with her sleuthing skills, leading to a new job with his firm Titanium. Now in Mumbai she is given the case of the year – the murder of Ashutosh Dhingre, former assistant to fading Bollywood superstar Kimaaya Kapoor.  The location of the crime is Kimaaya’s private island. The suspects – her house guests, and Kimaaya herself!  Reema learns of Kimaaya’s prior relationship with Shayak, and can’t help but think it is a conflict of interest. Equally puzzling is Shayak’s repeated absence. And what of the continuing attraction simmering between her and her secretive boss?   Despite the state-of-the-art facilities at Titanium, Reema is soon back to her own devices – which sometimes involves cooking up something for a spot of culinary meditation – to get to the bottom of a crime that points to a deep and sinister plot.  As the body count increases, can Reema crack the case before more blood is spilled?

Review:

Some authors amaze me. I pick up a book skeptically and I am stunned beyond words. Dead in a Mumbai Minute did just that. I understand this is a part of a series and there was a book previous to this, but I had not read it. Regrettably. I said regrettably, for two reasons. One, because I love who-dunnits and this is a very finely crafted story. So the first one would have been smashing too. Secondly, I was at a loss in a few places. Events or memories which were being carried on from the first book made little sense to me and I had to halt.

Having said that, let me tell what I loved the most about Dead in a Mumbai Minute. We have Reema, our protagonist, joining Shayak Gupta's sleuth service firm, Titanium. Only, Titanium is much more than just sleuth service. The author has delved into the description of how such a firm could or would be and let me tell you, it fascinated me a lot. Yes, yes, I have dreamt of being in the FBI once upon a time, at age 6. So you can imagine, the minute details of such an agency captured my attention. This, coupled with a mystery, some romance, some tension and a sinister plot, this story is a winner. 

Former assistant of a fading superstar gets killed in an island owned by the superstar. The house guests and the superstar herself are the suspects. Peppered with few excepted and few unexpected events, Dead in a Mumbai Minute is quite a gripping read.

Rating: ****/5
[This review is for Pan Macmillan India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#BookReview : The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen

On the jacket:

Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother - Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid - was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...  And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...

Review:

A book I was curious about since the time I had heard about it, The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen didn't let me down. In a very fairy tale-ish manner, our protagonst Kelsea Glynn was sent to live away, and returns to her kingdom only when she is nineteen. Along with Lazarus, she saves her people, her countrymen from the evil clutches of the Red Queen. Life isn't as easy as it sounds, for Kelsea. 


Kelsea got on my nerves many a times. She is real, born to be a queen but is your average teenager full of herself.
The cast is fairly large and the author has done a good job in maintaining them all, and their plots. 

The main antagonist, the Red Queen of Mortmesne, is could hve been more developed. One doesnt really understand her point of view until the very end.

Rating: ***.5/5
[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]


Saturday, July 26, 2014

#BookReview : The Helpline by Uday Mane

On the jacket:

Samir is suicidal. Rachael works for a suicide helpline. Fate connects them through a phone call. And so begins Samir’s story of love, longing, errors, regret and a girl who changed his life. As his story reaches its conclusion, Rachael will know the true reason behind his suicidal tendencies. But this suicide helpline is not any ordinary service. There is more to the mysterious and yet so convincing voice of Rachael. As this new mystery begins to unfold, Samir is going to discover three things:   

What is The Helpline?  
Who is Rachael?  
What is Samir’s own identity?   

Every year, several teenagers in India attempt suicide because of failing relationships, dwindling careers, parental pressure or the competitive world. This story is about one such teenager, his early problems and the hurdles to cope with them. This story is about finding hope in the struggle. This story is about fighting for what you believe in and discovering your true identity. This is not a story about falling in love. This is a story of rising from a failed love story.  

Note: "Proceedings of Rs. 5 per book will be used for child welfare through The Rotary Foundation"

Review:

I was very curious about the book from the time I heard it's title and saw it's cover. Suicide helpline and the kind of calls that come on it, the way they are handled, etc have always intrigued me. Attending to a call where the person is on the verge of killing themselves, is not easy!

As the blurn suggests, Samir is suicidal and he calls up a suicide helpline. The call was answered by Rachel. The Helpline is a journey of a man, heartbroken and on the verge of killing himself - to his conversations with Rachel - his revelations about himself and his life. Though it might seem, this is not just Samir's story. 

The author has done a fine job in creating an interesting story with some mystery towards the end of it, along with creating awareness about depression, and how parents cannot put too much pressure on their children.

Editing leaves a lot to be desired.

Rating: ***.5/5

[This review is for Leadstart Publishing. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

#BookReview: Metamorphing by Kunal Pancholi

On the jacket:


28TH APRIL, 2000: Flight No. 9x4876 bound to Srinagar has crash landed into the Everest Base camp. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the flight mysteriously went off the radar for few minutes and missed its landing. All passengers are feared dead… except for three bodies that are yet to be recovered.  
8TH DECEMBER, 2050: This, without doubt is the most gruesome murder in recent times. Early this morning, an unidentified woman was found mutilated at the western gates of the abandoned Victoria Terminus Station in Mumbai. Authorities report her head was … well … semi-decapitated and she was drained of all her blood. The shocking part - the crime scene was devoid of any signs of blood spatter…  
ROHAN: He was shorter than the shortest girl in school; he had to be ahead in the game!  
RUDRA: A man without a past, coaxed into a murder investigation; will he ever grasp the true nature of the crime?  A thrilling tale about two men bound by an untraceable yet undeniable fate - One running away from his past, another unaware of his own.

Review:

With a very attractive cover, the book gives a preview of the story being dark and mysterious. As the blurb suggests, Metamorphing is in two parallel times, the years 2000 and 2050. We also have two primary characters: Rohan narrating the story as it was, from the year 2000 and Rudra, from the the year 2500. 

A survivor of a fatal plan crash, Rohan has no memory of the previous five years of his life. Rudra too has no recollection of his past, but he is quite mysterious a person. Somewhere, both these lives are interconnected.

The switch between both the narrations is smooth and the characters are well defined. I was not very comfortable with the vampire bit, but the rest of the story made up for it. A decent read.

Rating: ***.5/5

[This review is for Leadstart Publishing. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Thursday, July 24, 2014

#BookReview : Trouble Has A New Name by Adite Banerjie

On the jacket:


“Will you pretend to be my fiancĂ© for the next few days?”   Recently-single model Rayna Dutt does not feel like flying to her friend’s big fat Indian wedding. But she does - and when a mix up with room allocations forces her to share a luxury villa on Emerald Isle with the gorgeous owner of the hotel - Neel Arora - and best man at the wedding, things begin to look up.  Until Rayna’s ex turns up with a new girl on his arm!   Hitting the panic button, Rayna searches for a solution. Surely Neel wouldn’t mind being her fake fiancĂ©…? In an instant the attraction they share is fever pitch, but when scandal comes calling, Rayna soon finds herself in more trouble than she can handle!

Review:

This is Adite Banerjie's second Harlequin novel that I read and I must say, she has outdone herself!


Trouble Has A New Name is about super model Rayna Dutt, small town girl making it big in big, bold Bombay while trying to fight her own internal demons. The story begins with Rayna having to rush to catch the flight to Andaman, for her best friend's big, fat, Indian wedding. To start off this fun trip, the man she was dating, dumped via sms and soured her mood for most of the trip.

On board the flight, Rayna meets Neel Arora, owner of the resort where the wedding was to be held and business partner to Rayna's best friend's would-be-husband. They hit it off on a wrong note, and end up sharing a villa. Sparks fly and they end up falling in love with each other. But not before a lot of confusion, the ex and his current girlfriend being present at the wedding as guests, a peak into both Rayna and Neel's pasts and how they help each other kill their demons. 

But, all is not well in lovesville. One misunderstanding has Neel flying back to Bombay, before the wedding festivities finish. While playing the part of Rayna's boyfriend, he falls for her hard but his own past restrains him from being open about his love. Rayna takes it as unwillingness and disconnects from him. Months later, the two are united, and how!!

A very smooth plot, well-defined characters and a perfect read for rainy afternoon; this book was unputdownable. 

Rating: ****.5/5

[This is an author request review. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]



Thursday, July 17, 2014

#BookReview: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith

On the jacket:

Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...
A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.

Review:

Cormoran Strike is very much in demand, after the success of the Luna Landry case. And this time, it's the disappearance of novelist Owen Quine, which needs his attention. Quine's wife lands at Strike's doorstep, tells him she can't pay him, asks him to find her husband without involving the police and tells him to collect his payment from Quine's manager. She is sure her husband has gone off somewhere to right and isn't really missing. Strike just needs to locate him and drag him back home. 

For no apparent reason, Strike accepted the case. He was sure, he needs to trace a writer who has gone somewhere to write as his wife imagined. But what he wasn't prepared for is the mystery that unravels slowly. A missing novelist who is shortly found murdered, the manuscript of his unpublished book threatening a lot of big names in the industry and a whole lot of incidents which put together look like a maze. Strike has to solve this mystery soon, before his time is up.

Rowling is undoubtedly a master story teller and I shouldn't even be reviewing this book. And you shouldn't need to read a review to buy her book. The kind of magic she created with the HP series is strikingly different to how she spun the tale in the Cormoran Strike series. What is common is the magic, which she has created here too.

Character are well-defined. Despite few of them being introduced in the first book, a new reader won't be at a loss in understanding the characters in this book. What we see happen a lot of time is that the first book is marvelous but then the standard dips. Not with Rowling. Here, as Galbraith also, she has only upped the ante. The second book is even better than the first. 


A very gripping tale. Though it's a thick book, I never realised when I reached the end of it - that's how quick the pages turned themselves.

Rating: ****.5/5

[This review is for Hachette India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

#BookReview : Fade Into Red by Reshma K. Barshikar

On the jacket:

 Ayra always wanted to be an Art Historian. She saw herself flitting between galleries, talking Michelangelo and Dali with glamorous ease. At twenty–nine, life has decided to make her an underpaid investment banker juggling an eccentric family, a fading career and a long–distance relationship that is becoming a light-year one.  On a monsoon day in June, she is suddenly sent packing from Mumbai to Tuscany to buy a vineyard for a star client. What should have been a four day trip turns into a two week treasure hunt that finds her in the middle of midnight wine deals, dodgy vintners, rolling Tuscan hills, a soap opera family and one playboy millionaire who is looking to taste more than just the wine. Towards the end she finds that the road to true happiness is almost as elusive as that perfect glass of Chianti.

Review:

A story about Arya, an investment banker who finds love where least expected. Coming from a family where everyone is more than keen on her getting married to her long distance boyfriend of a long time, Arya is a sorted and serious girl for her age.

In a long distance relation for a while, she has been pestered enough to get into matrimony. Finally, it's arranged that the parents will meet. And on the same day, she is sent off by her office, to Tuscany to meet their big client. Yes, Tuscany. I know what you are thinking, and you are thinking. Here on, it's all mush. If not for Arya, definitely for the reader. I mean, who can avoid imagining Tuscany, without the wine, amazing climate and handsome men thrown in!


So what happens here! If I am to tell you, I will say Arya has the time of her life, with some major roller coaster situations. And the way the story has been plotted, it will take you on a trip to Tuscany as well, right there, with Arya. A nice light read, Fade Into Red will pull and tug into your heart's strings and make you grin like a fool. So, beware.

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

#BookReview: The Last King in India: Wajid 'Ali Shah, 1822-1887 by Rosie Llewellyn-Jones

On the jacket:


The thousands of mourners who lined Wajid Ali Shahs funeral route on 21 September, 1887, with their loud wailing and shouted prayers, were not only marking the passing of the last king but also the passing of an intangible connection to old India, before the Europeans came. This is the story of a man whose memory continues to divide opinion today. Was Wajid Ali Shah, as the British believed, a debauched ruler who spent his time with fiddlers, eunuchs and fairies, when he should have been running his kingdom? Or as a few Indians remember him, a talented poet whose songs are still sung today and who was robbed of his throne by the English East India Company? Somewhere between these two extremes lies a gifted, but difficult, character, a man who married more women than there are days in the year, who directed theatrical extravaganzas that took over a month to perform and who built a fairy tale palace in Lucknow, which was inhabited for less than a decade. He remained a constant thorn in the side of the ruling British government with his extravagance, his menagerie and his wives. Even so, there was something rather heroic about a man who refused to bow to changing times and who single-handedly endeavored to preserve the etiquette and customs of the great Mughals well into the period of the British Raj. India's last king Wajid Ali Shah was written out of the history books when Awadh was annexed by the Company in February 1856. After long years of painstaking research, noted historian Rosie Llewellyn-Jones revives his memory and returns him his rightful place as one of India's last great rulers.

Review:

History fascinates me. Specially, Indian history. And reading about the Mughals is always intriguing. The richness, the greatness, the power, the wisdom, the courage - everything is so fascinating! With all this in mind, I started reading this book. It's no secret that India is rich in heritage, stories and inspirational people. Reading a successful ruler's biography is no less than an amazing experience in my opinion. And I was so right!

I knew there was a lot in store for me in the book, but I didn't anticipate how much. What the book revealed was exhiliarating! A king, with deep interest in poetry is intriguing. What would you say of a poetic king who had around 350 wives? A king who was the last nawab of Awadh, and someone who is credited for the revival of Kathak in India. Wajid Ali shah was an extremely fascinating personality. A ruler, a nawab, he took keen interest in theatrics, music, dance and poetry.

He couldn't rule for a long duration, he was sent into exile where he lived the rest of his life, in comfort. An extremely well researched and put together account of the life of the last nawab of Awadh, The Last King in India is a truly fine read.

Rating: *****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

Monday, July 14, 2014

#AuthorInterview : Ruchi Banerjee

In conversation with Ruchi Banerjee, author of Infinitude:

•    Congratulations on the book! Is this your first?
Thank you. Yes, it’s my debut novel.
•    Tell our readers a bit about your book?
Infinitude is a Young Adult novel set in a futuristic world. It’s essentially the story of two young lives striving to survive in a world where humans have been driven into extinction.
•    Untouched topic, in a way. At least I haven’t read any female Indian writer’s books in this genre. How high was the anxiety?
Actually, I wasn’t nervous till after the book was published. That’s when the anxiety really kicked in.
•    What does Ruchi Banerjee do? Tell us about the person behind the author.
Ruchi Banerjee used to teach and write but now simply writes whenever she can find the time. Keeping her belligerent five-year-old entertained is a job that takes up the rest of her time.
•    Tell us something about your struggle with getting published. We have a fair idea that it isn’t a cake walk. But how was the real deal for you?
It wasn’t a walk but more a crawl though there was definitely cake involved in the end.
Actually, it was a long hard wait to get my book published and even longer once the manuscript was accepted. All I can say is…it’s good I have a lot of patience.
•    Any brickbats which really hurt, yet?
I keep away from the negative as much as I can and also try not to let the positive reviews get to my head. It’s hard but helps me stay true to my writing.
•    How and when did you decide to be a published author? Was it always a plan, or did you start thinking on the lines when you thought you had a plot with you.
It was always a plan but I never had the confidence in myself. To be honest, there was an interview of J. K. Rowling with Oprah that I happened to watch. That was what really inspired me and prodded me to take a chance on myself.
•    Is it difficult to write with a full time career? How did you time it all?
I used to find time at night. It’s still the time when I’m most productive in my writing.
•    What next? New genre; or you would want to stick to dystopia/ sci-fi?
I would like to stick to the Young Adult dystopian genre. The sequel to Infinitude is set to be published in 2015. I might explore fantasy after that. 
•    Who do you read, who are your favourites?
Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood.
•    People pass snide remarks saying anyone can be a writer now. True to an extent, because there is a lot of average and below average reading material out there, but one cannot deny that there are some really talented writers. Does this perception affect writers in any way?
Ultimately, it’s the readers who decide what they want to read. We live in an age where Fifty Shades and Gone Girl compete for shelf-space, which is not really a bad thing in my opinion. More power to the readers, I say.
•    Any to-dos for wannabe authors?
Don’t worry about what other people think of your writing. Listen to yourself and keep writing.

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