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 A missing novelist who is shortly found murdered, the manuscript of his unpublished book threatening a lot of big names in the industry and a whole lot of incidents which put together look like a maze.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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

#BookReview: Daughter By Court Order by Ratna Vira

On the jacket:

 A seemingly innocent remark over an innocuous cup of tea. Aranya discovers that her family has been fighting a decade-long legal battle over her grandfather’s expansive estate, all the while not only keeping her in the dark, but also keeping her very existence out of the court’s knowledge!  A cesspool of emotions, half-truths, betrayals, and the unspooling of long buried dirty family secrets threaten to overpower Aranya and disrupt what modicum of peace and balance she has in her life as a single mother of two children. At the centre of this storm is the one woman who, ever since the day Aranya was born, has had nothing but curses and abuses for her; who has deliberately kept her name out of the court; who has wished her dead for every day of her life; who refuses to now remember her birth. The woman who is her mother. Her own mother.  This is the story of a woman fighting against power, money, deceit, and treachery for her right to be recognised as a daughter. A daughter by court order . . .

Review:

Daughter By Court Order is a shocker of a book for me. A brilliant read. Imagine this, you own mother doesn't want you. Your own mother hates the sight of you. I know this is not uncommon in India, but fortunately for me, it is a big shock to read about someone whose mother didn't want her to recover and be moved out of the incubator.

This story is about Arnie, or Aranya, born to a very well-to-do family in Delhi. This is one half baked family. There is dadaji, there is phua Baby Singh, Arnie's parents, a brother and the rest of the brood, including her father's two other siblings and their families. Now dadaji was a big name, an ex CM, a man with a lot of power and money. As often happens, neither of his sons could do much, despite Arnie's father being the brilliant one. 

Her phua and her dadaji were her only saviours. The author has developed each character so well, I was sure I knew them personally. Who would say, this is a debut novel! The plot sucks you right in and I finished most of the book in one go. 

The plot sails smoothly between the past and the present, the past having various stages of Arnie's life. Today, Arnie is a single mother to two children, since the last ten years and she is shown to be doing well for herself. She has lived a traumatized life right from birth, with her mother referring to her only as a kamini, haramzadi, and a burden. From her phua she gets to know about an ongoing property case for the house she has grown up in, and as per her dadaji's will, daughters of the house have claim to all the property. But the catch here is, that Arnie's mother has not included her name in the list of benefactors. As per records, Arnie doesn't exists. Thus begins a daughter's quest to prove that she is a part of that family.

What follows is a heart warming, tedious process where finally Arnie decides to not let her mother bully her any more and stand up for her own rights. A brilliant read, is what this is. But I must admit, Arnie's mother kept shocking me with her abuses for her daughter. I mean....why!! Well, I strongly recommend this book a read, you should to find out how Arnie stands up for herself.

Rating: *****/5

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

#BookReview : How to Screw Up Like a Pro by Abirami M. Krishnan

On the jacket:

 Most families have their share of rebels, adulterers, addicts, ambitious actors, reformed playboys, lovers of exotic animals and the occasional mute, right? Akola Suresh, recently returned from the US, finds that in the three years that she's been away, 'home' has become more unraveled than ever. Surrounded by ever-bickering parents whom she addresses by their first names, aged grandparents struck with all manner of old-age eccentricities, a brother who is narrowly skirting the path to social pariah-hood and a younger sister aspiring to be the hottest new star in Kollywood, Akola is quite sure of one thing-'bonded' is a word they could never entirely apply to themselves. But when old, hurtful secrets are revealed and a frightening incident shakes them all to the core, it's time for the Sureshes to abandon their happily dysfunctional lives and, finally, be family. 

Review:

How to Screw Up like a Pro by Abirami M Krishnan is a refreshing read, though I must say, the cover pic is misleading. I had started reading this book with minimal expectations, based on the cover. While after reading the book, I do see how the cover fits with the plot. before reading the book, I had thought that the story would be a difficult to read book.

A south Indian family, with two grandparents, one of each side, two parents both doctors and three grown up children go to buy a house. Kind of a half baked family, as families usually are, this one has it's own typical traits. The three children are as different as they come. The son, Arjun is into computers, the elder daughter Akola is pursuing her doctorate while the youngest Anjana wants to be an actress. The grandparents are an interesting due as well, being the mother's mother and the father's father.

Arjun announces that his girlfriend of a few months is pregnant and she needs time to decide if she wants to marry him for the baby or not. This tangent is one roller coaster ride. The father, Dr Suresh, is shown to be having an extra marital affair while his wife, the famous gynaecologist Dr Parvati is battling her own mental problems and the setbacks they cause. Akola is shown to be the most sorted of the lot, and she needs to handle all these problems. However, she reacts in a way not expected of her.

This is Akola's story but the rest of the characters are equally strong in the story. Very well-defined charatcers, a strong plot and the best thing about the book is, honest writing. No pretences of being a wannabe best seller. The author clearly had a story to share and that's what she did. A commendable job for a debut book.

Rating: ****.5/5

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




#BookReview : Manhattan Mango by Madhuri Iyer

On the jacket:

 Q. What happens when three ambitious, high-achieving, 20-something Mumbaikars become New Yorkers?  A. Madness.  Zipping through life’s ups and downs like a high-speed elevator during rush hour, buddies Shri, Shanks, and Neel hold on to each other, and their sanity, with a bro-hood bonding that chipkos them together, fevicol se.  Neel’s the driven hedge fund guy, with a weakness for scotch and women. Tam Brahm Shanks, a techie, falls for the "wrong” girl. Good Son Shri, a banker, holds a secret he means to take to his grave. Their intertwined lives buzz with high-voltage drama — explosive secrets, super-charged romances, and a-fuse-a-minute meltdowns.  There’s alcohol-fueled passion, Devdas style. Inter-racial hook-ups. Even a fake affair, because money can’t buy the real thing. When their skyscraper-sized dreams are tested, this “desified” saga of friends in Manhattan is like the city’s rapid transit express subway line. You won’t want any stops in between.

Review:

Mahattan Mango is the author's story of three Indian guys living in New York. And these guys are right out of pages of most of our lives, we all know at least one such guy living it up in the States. A story about Shree, Neel and Shanks, their lives, their Indian-ness in foreign land, fun, heartbreaks etc.

A powerful narration, characters we can relate with, Manhattan Mango is a visit through the lives of three Indian boys in the US. And as friendships go, these have their own ups and downs, experiences, fun, acceptances, confrontations and the works. They call themselves The Ganpat Gang, because of their common love for a popular song. Along with these three, other characters are also introduced into the plot, slowly. Best part about the book is it's pace. A steady pace and a well spun story, Manhattan Mango was a delight to read. It's not all fun and frolic; life gets it's usual serious twists and turns when more people come into the guys' lives. From accepting Shrre's reality, to Neel's and Shanks' relationships in their personal lives, Iyer has written a very fine, fun story.

One thing though, for a group which calls themselves The Gannpat Gang, these guys form a very sober gang. A racy read.

Rating: ****/5

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

#BookReview: Junglezen Sheru by Samarpan

On the jacket:

 When the forest loses its royal family, the inhabitants elect Kapi, a monkey, as their leader. Sheru, the orphaned lion cub, is adopted by Muktak, the elephant, who strives to convince him that he is the rightful ruler of the forest. But Sheru refuses to believe this. When Kapi declares that everyone in the forest is equal and all creatures will be known as Junglezen henceforth, Sheru laps up the idea with enthusiasm and gets down to being a committed commoner. What follows is a hilarious account of the downward journey of the strong. The situation becomes catastrophic when the forest faces the danger of destruction by the marauding wolves. Junglezen Sheru is a delightful fable centring on individuality, leadership and perfection. This thought provoking story also makes one pause to think about oneself and one's relation to society.

Review:

 It took me a while to sit down and write this review, simply because I am not sure if I can do justice to it. It's easier to read and understand and appreciate a masterpiece but very difficult to put into words, why it is masterpiece. Difficult, lest you fail to give it it's worth.

I wanted to read this book ever since I heard the author's name. So similar to mine! Silly reason yes, but important nevertheless. Before I received the book, I read a bit abaout it and was intrigued. What  unraveled when I turned the pages of the book was a whole new world altogether.

In Junglezen Sheru, author Samarpan, who is a monk, has displayed fine qualities of spinning a tale with a moral. Set in the jungle, this could be a parallel world to the world we human's live. The day is about to end, when the king of the jungle is killed by the hunters and the next morning all the animals meet to elect a new leader. The monkey is elected.Sheru is the orphaned lion cub, and he has a tough time adjusting to and accepting that he too was a commoner now. This is Sheru's story, and how the actual leaders react to crisis while the real reader emerges at the times of stress.

Henceforth, a hilarious story unfolds. The story teaches courage, humility, strength, leadership and about life. A treat for the readers.


Rating: *****/5

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

#BookReview : Knightley and Son (Knightley and Son #1) by Rohan Gavin

On the jacket:

The once highly in-demand detective Alan Knightley has just woken up after an unexplained incident kept him asleep for four years. While he was out cold, his son, Darkus, took it upon himself to read of all his dad's old cases, and he's learned a lot about the art of detection. It's a good thing too—because suddenly the duo find themselves caught up in a crazy conspiracy that involves a group of villainous masterminds (who keep appearing and then vanishing), some high-speed car chases (that will have everyone fastening their seat belts), and a national, bestselling book with the power to make people do terrible, terrible things. But because Alan is still suffering the effects of his coma, he tends to, well, fall asleep at the worst possible moments, Meaning that young Darkus might just have to solve this mystery . . . by himself.

Review:

Darkus Khnightley is our own young sleuth, the newest and the youngest in the block. With parents separated, mother remarried and father in a sort of a coma, Darkus is growing up keeping mostly to himself.

Alan Knightley has been in coma for about four years now. A legendary private investigator at London, he was in the midst of an important case, which remains unsolved. Darkus had been studying the papers of this case through the years his father was lying on bed and understand the case very well. When Alan gins consciousness, he along with his friend Billy, are back on this case, this time with Darkus assisting them.

A self-help book is making selective readers commit unexplained, heinous crimes. The mystery seems deeper than what the reader thinks and with every page that is turned, newer complications come up.

What I loved about this book is that young adults can read and enjoy it. And that it is a proper story; unlike the new age fantasy novels kids read. The plot exercises the reader's mind and gives just the right amount of adrenaline rush. Young adults and adults, both will equally enjoy this book.

This is probably the first father-son due of private investigators that is hot on trails of some big criminals. Can they solve this case?

Rating: ****/5

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


#Giveaway : Bucket List of a Traveloholic by Sarika Pandit


And


bring to you a chance to win a copy of

and a voucher worth Rs 500/- from URead.com
 


About the book
While her B - School batch-mates are busy scrambling for top jobs and grades, restless Sarika dreams of putting on her running shoes and having all the pages of her passport stamped by the age of thirty.  What follows is a frenzied quest of not just collecting stamps but ticking off items off her ever-expanding bucket list, From learning the local language in Spain to an alcohol trail through Greece, from a tryst with Shakespeare and Jane Austen in the United Kingdom to an encounter with the Vampire in Romania, from straddling the border of two countries in the Middle East to a road trip through Morocco to the Sahara, each experience bringing her a little closer to reaching that final destination on her passport.  A journey of falling in love with globetrotting - this one promises to be one of the best roller-coaster reading experiences you will have this year. 

Read my review of this book here.


Tell us about your favourite travel destination. And tell us why you think everyone needs to visit it at least once! Leave your answer in the comments section below.


Terms & Conditions:

·      Giveaway is only for residents of India.
·      Decision taken by the judges will be final and cannot be disputed.
·    The contest is open to all residents in India, albeit residing in places where couriers deliver.
·      Only entries in English will be considered eligible for the contest.
·  Submitted entries should be your original work; no plagiarism shall be entertained.
·       Two entries per person are allowed.
    Contest ends on  July 10, 2014.

 

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