Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

I rarely get chance to read a highly admired book. "A Night in the Lonesome October" by Roger Zelazny is my first review read from Netgalley. Whether you call the genre humour or horror or lovecraftian or mystery, but I am not able to put it into single genre confidently. Unlike my other review reads this book shows clear cut difference between debut author and veteran author.

Book blurb
All is not what it seems . . .
In the murky London gloom, a knife-wielding gentleman named Jack prowls the midnight streets with his faithful watchdog Snuff – gathering together the grisly ingredients they will need for an upcoming ancient and unearthly rite. For soon after the death of the moon, black magic will summon the Elder Gods back into the world. And all manner of Players, both human and undead, are preparing to participate.
Some have come to open the gates. Some have come to slam them shut.
And now the dread night approaches – so let the Game begin.
I think one has to read the book to understand what the story is all about. And many reviewers mentioned that it takes half the novel read to get the idea of the story. I would like to correct it, it took me more than two third of the book to understand what is happening. Story is written from watchdog's point of view. In a certain area of London, during Halloween of 1880's, a group of people (with special powers) gathered to perform a particular ceremony. They call it the Game. Each player has their own companion (animals) who help them during the Game. Players are divided into two groups, the Openers and the Closers. This year's Game became dangerous because of the death of players from both the sides. Snuff, watchdog, and Gray, cat, venture their own adventures during Game to find out truth behind various strange events. You will find all type of characters in story, a magician, a witch, a vampire, a warewolf, a psychopath, a Frankenstein and many more. 

There were some illustration given at appropriate places to clear readers doubt. For an example, from an illustration I understood that one player was a vampire, otherwise I would have kept thinking how a person sleeps in coffin under debris. You need a good amount of patience to finish this book. For some it may be nail biting journey and for some it may be sure shot DNFs. Its good that I sustained first 100 pages otherwise I would have put it under DNFs.

Talking about ratings:
  1. Cover - 4 / 5 
  2. Characters - 3.5 / 5 
  3. Storyline - 4 / 5 (Something new)
  4. Content - 3.5 / 5
  5. Overall - 4 / 5
Book can be found at - Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Chronicles of Hanuman - The Great Monkey God

Shubha Vilas is really a wordsmith. His last book I read was self-help book Open Eyed Meditation which took a permanent place in my favourite book list. His 'The Chronicles of Hanuman", a wonderful collection of tales, could be a perfect gift for any age person. Author has magnificently bundled wit-wisdom & adventure filled stories of Hanuman with deep messages.

Blurb of the book
Lord Hanuman, the Monkey God and one of the most fascinating characters in the Ramayana, personifies the true superhero-philosopher. He is Lord Rama’s most trusted ally who embodies the virtues of a sincere devotee, the fearless fighter who sets the city of Lanka ablaze with his burning tail, the humble messenger who informs Mother Sita of Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana, the noble fellow warrior who uproots Dronagiri, a mountain of herbs, to save Lakshmana’s life. Above all, he is a perfect blend of intelligence and humility. The Chronicles of Hanuman, an engaging and inspiring bildungsroman of the Monkey God, is also replete with interesting folk tales, local lore about Hanuman temples across India and Hanuman prayers, making this book a reader’s delight.
Well it is a collection of short stories, so I won't be able to brief about stories individually. The author has made sure to divide short stories into four sections.
  1. Stories from Ramayana. These stories are taken from either Valamiki or Tulsi Ramayana. It's not complete Ramayana, but a collection of stories (in chronological order) where Hanuman's role or presence made difference.
  2. Folklore from various culture of Indian states. These stories are from different ages, starting from Ramayana to Mogul times.
  3. This part has covered famous Hanuman temples in India. It also tells story behind these temples.
  4. The last part covers lines from various Hindu religious literature and explains meaning of each line. At last, Hanuman Chalisa with proper meaning of each stanza was given.
The best thing was the learning provided at the end of each story. Each line is candidate for a good motivational quote. Author Shubha Vilas know very well how to maintain readers interest while delivering a message. Pace of the book is smooth and fast enough to finish book in one sitting.

Talking about ratings.
  1. Cover - 3.5 / 5 
  2. Characters - 5 / 5 (How can I judge character of Ramayana?)
  3. Content - 3.5 / 5 (I was expecting more)
  4. Overall - 3.75 / 5
Book can be found at - Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Yama's Lieutenant - Mytho-Action-Thriller

There is nothing better than reviewing your wishlist book. "Yama's Lieutenant" made its place in my wishlist, the day I saw book on Amazon. I didn't even checked blurb of the book, all I checked was cover and author's name. And author made sure that reader won't get disappointed. I would like to salute Anuja Chandramouli to combine mythology and action thriller into one genre wonderfully. 

Blurb of the book -
The inhabitants of the thousand hells of Yama have broken free from their prison and vowed to wreak havoc on the heavens, the earth and hell. With the fiendish Hatakas and Narakamayas teamed up with Naganara, a terrifying necromancer hungry for power, the universe is headed for war and destruction unless one human has something to do with it.Agni Prakash, a debonair young man whose world has been turned upside down by the death of his twin sister, Varu, has been enlisted to stop these forces and be Yama s very own lieutenant. As the mythical world clashes with his own, Agni discovers a manuscript left behind by his sister. Hauntingly, it draws parallels to the treacherous path upon which he has been thrust. Equipped with an acerbic wit and winning charm, Agni undertakes a battle, where the odds seem tipped wildly against him, and finds unlikely companions along the way.Will he be able to uncover the secret behind his sister's writings? And more importantly, will he be able to avert the destruction that seems imminent?
Book has two parallels both related to Yama, one was directly related while another was indirectly.

Part 1 - The main story of Yama's lieutenant, where Agni Prakash with help of Kritya / Kanya trying fighting with sinister forces. In spite of aeons of punishments in hell, these forces were evil at core. Even Yama and his forces were not able to change them. They can only be contained cannot destroyed. These forces are left on human world carelessly for rampaging. Fortress of hell, walls of various Yama's torturous jails.

Part 2 - This part is portrayed as a manuscript written by Agni's sister Varuna before she died. Varuna has done detailed research on Yama's life. She has written story about Yama and his twin sister Yami. Story covers how siblings love had deepen with time and how Yama ended up as the king of the Patal loka (hell).

I have read alternate mythologies like Shiva Triology by Amish Tripathi or Ajaya by Anand Neelakanthan, but this is my first Indian mythology infused action thriller. Indian literature needed more authors like Anuja. Things I liked about book:
  • Anuja's Word-smithy - Description of Character, Place or Incident to the point. No extra information which bring boredom.
  • Focus on story line
  • Properly knitted myth and fantasy quotient as perfect serving
One thing I would like to mention, after reading 300 pages (which is 85% of total pages), I was expecting next volume in series. But author has somehow finished it too early. It was like "I didn't see it coming". Still a good read for age above 16.

Talking about ratings:
  1. Cover - 5 / 5 (I don't want to repeat why)
  2. Language - 4.5 / 5 
  3. Story Line - 4 / 5
  4. Characters - 4 / 5
  5. Concept - 4 / 5
  6. Overall - 4.25 / 5
Book can be found at - Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Blemishing the Odds - Love Story of Kids

Though some books won't give you extraordinary story, it will you attached till end, because of the emotional quotient of the content. 'Blemishing the odds' by Harish Penumarthi is one such book which makes you feel nostalgic about your childhood.

Book blurb
Say hello to Raghav, an immature, insensitive person who is apathetic about everyone else except himself. His life revolves around his parents and his friends. He is among the bad books of all his Teachers.
Until one day, when Trisha, a new entrant; mesmerises him at the very first glance. He finds a friend, savior, nurturer and an inamorata in her. Just when he thinks that everything has been set out in a picture perfect manner, life throws a series of ghastly surprises at him. Will he change for good or stick to his immature stand of “My Life, my rules” and screw it all up?
This tale journeys across all the ups and downs a student could possibly encounter. The transformations that a student may endure, the courage and guts one needs to have in order to dodge all predicaments and eventually sketch the perfect end to all his agonies.
Harish has very well provided blurb with what expected from story point of view. Book will take you through journey of mischievous boy to serious teen. Author has finished story with sweet ending. And things partly solved for Raghav at the end.  Author has intently kept end at point from where he can start another part of Raghav's life. (All the best for the same)

Story may not seem new to reader but it will make tickle while reading mischievous did of kids in school. No matter how much we earn today or how high we reach, those careless days will never come back. We always wanted to age up fast and become adult, but once we became adult we realised what we wanted was a mirage.

Talking about ratings.
  1. Cover - 2.5 / 5 
  2. Language - 3 / 5 
  3. Story Line - 2.5 / 5 (straight forward)
  4. Characters - 3 / 5
  5. Overall - 3 / 5
Book can be found at - Amazon
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Magician's Workshop - Volume Two

One will find thousands of books in fantasy genre which are based on magical world, but very few stand out of the crowd and leave an impression on readers mind. The Magician's Workshop is well thought & properly drafted story line. I strongly believe this story has potential to capture a huge fan following.

Book Blurb
Return to the world of The Magician’s Workshop: Where Dreams Become Reality.
In Volume Two, the Festival of Stars has finally arrived, and the Color Ceremony is about to commence. As children from all over the islands gather to stand before a puller, one question remains: who will have a Color, and who will be found void?
Rejoin your favorite characters as they step forward and receive a label that will have the power to dramatically alter the course of their lives forever.
Second part of "The Magician's Workshop" started where first was finished, i.e. just before colour ceremony started. All coming to age kids participated in the colour ceremony. Few found colours in them, few found void, and few got multiple colours as well. Colour has changed each character's life. Weston, Luge & Kalaya found void. Luge was mentally ready for the void, but for Weston and Kalaya shock was huge. Weston took daily jobs soon after ceremony to help his family financially. Kalaya's dad help her to regain confidence and she decided to join a team to train irrespective of void. Talia & Kaso found single colour. Talia joined her island's own team for training. Kaso join Aaro's team for training. Kai & Layauna found multiple colours. Layauna had no difficulties for trainer due to her grandfather's reputation. But for Kai it was a difficult task. Due his fiasco of his father people were reluctant to train him, and in such time two conflicting colours made his life more difficult. At the end his grandfather came forward to train him. Second part ended with each member's resolution to get trained with a trainer and show their prowess. And then there is also a suspense created by author in last chapter as a prophecy.

I think I recapped complete story in above paragraph. But it's not just story for which you read this kind of book. It is about going through the experience of fantasy world, which authors have done wonderfully. As I have already mentioned in first part review, many aspects of these fantasy world was visualised and presented very well. Tempo of the story was like a sine wave for me. Story started with high high temp with starting of colour ceremony, then temp went low (I would say touched bottom) for almost 30% of the part, but authors were able to finish it at high peak once again. Prophecy revelation made me connect to publishers same day to enquire for next part's availability.

In and all, a wonderful read. Talking about ratings.
  1. Cover - 2.5 / 5 (I can hardly differentiate 2nd volume from 1st)
  2. Language - 4 / 5 (For book audience of kids, YA)
  3. Story Line - 3 / 5 
  4. Characters - 4 / 5
  5. Concept - 4.5 / 5 
  6. Overall - 4 / 5
Book can be found at - Amazon
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads & Facebook

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Four Patriots - A Political Thriller

If you are a fan of Movies like 'Nayak' or 'Sivaji', you will love this book. 'The Four Patriots' is a result of a strong patriot nationalist author's imagination. Sumit Agarwal had tried to revamp excitement of movies like Nayak to a country level politics. In the time of demonetisation such book can capture good mass appeal.

Book Blurb - 
If you have ever fallen victim to the system, been humiliated, felt helpless… this book is for you. Varun, a NRI software engineer, loves Alisha. Salman, CEO of Coffee Moments, loves Mahi. Raghav, a virtuous politician, loves Neha. Aditya, an altruist businessman, is married to Prachi.Destiny invites them to step out of their comfort zones and fight the devil that holds their country captive. Will they choose country over love, comfort and success? Will they enter the Chakravyuh, intricately laid down to ensure their destruction? Will they come out of it alive and win back our lost pride?Buckle up for a roller-coaster ride into the lives of these four young men who are out to change the system which could not be changed in the last 70 years of independence. A story fraught with romance and patriotism. The story unveils how the four patriots ( our protagonists ) fight against terrorism, corruption, naxalites, poverty and many other problems, apart from the web spun for their destruction by their rivals ( the villians ). Against all odds, they come out victorious, ultimately bringing glory and pride to our country.Also pick this book if you are a patriot and do not believe that “Is desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta.” If you do, all the more reason to read it ! 
Book is divided into two segments. First segment started with four individual characters, Aditya, Varun, Salman, Raghav. Each of them has faced some difficulties directly or indirectly due to deep rooted corruption of country. Aditya lost his first love Alisha (foreign student from Australia) because her dad denied their relationship; as he cannot allow his daughter to marry in a country where law are taken for granted. Varun, working as a software expert in USA, wanted to bring reforms in Indian judicial system via his NGO. Salman was an orphan and was raised by a Hindu couple. His hard work has rewarded him with CEO position with Coffee Moments a famous coffee joints chain. But his emotional attachment towards his chawl has bound him with his roots. He wanted to uplift lifestyle of his neighbourhood. Raghav, niece of CM of a state, wanted to do good things in his assigned Educational Ministry, but his uncle transferred him to another department when he sensed Raghav's honesty was obstructing party's goal. These four individual instead of blaming the system for unsuccessful or slow process decided to enter into the system.

Second segment, started with 'Naya Bharat' coming to power with majority of seats. And just like Nayak movie they started their aggressive plans, starting from upliftment of education, showing Indian strength at Olympics, eradicating naxalism or terrorism, reduce corruption by 90% in 5 years. List is long. During this period, opposition party leader Jatin Oberoi (whose party has govern country for more than 5 decades) wanted to dethrone 'Naya Bharat'. He kept attacking this quadro but quadro were always ready with counter attack.

I found few flaws in story
  • Time lines were not sync with description at 2-3 points
  • Author's optimism was at peak while writing this book. Quadro were given more than 12-15 department (all important one) when they came into power.
  • Sport minister of India, just 20 minutes before competition entered into competition and that to in final round (how come??). Minister even won the competition against pro. (Fully Bollywood style)
Overall it is a good read, the only reason for low rating is my own high expectation from author on such topic. Talking about ratings:
  1. Cover - 4 / 5 (No doubt really good one)
  2. Language - 4 / 5
  3. Characters - 4 / 5
  4. Concept - 3.5 / 5
  5. Overall - 3.5 / 5
Book can be found at - Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Monday, February 6, 2017

Meet Travel Fiction Writer - Mohit Goyal - Author of RoadTrippers

There are less books around travelogue specially from Indian author. Mohit Goyal in his debut work has tried to create an interesting travelogue of an awesome threesome. We have reviewed his book in our blog few months back. We got a chance to talk with Mohit few days back. Today we are presenting what he has to say about his book - COLORFUL NOTIONS 1.0.

Congratulations Mohit for you book. Can you tell our reader about your educational background?
I have completed my schooling from Ramjas School, New Delhi. I hold Bachelors in Business Administration from JIMS, IP University (2001-04), New Delhi. I did my MSc in Supply Chain from Cranfield University (2007-08), England.

What were you like at school/college apart from studies?
I have always been a backbencher, never into studies because of an intrinsic flaw of our education system – study for results. I still did fairly well in conventional education but never really took too much of it home.
During school, I was not too much into extra-curricular either. I basically preferred the ‘middle of the pack’ approach in everything I did. Maybe I was shy, or maybe I wasn’t genuinely not interested – I still don’t know.
In college and in masters though, I did open up a lot and looked forward to activities – be it college fests or other aspects of overall development. I particularly remember representing the ‘Cranfield Students Union’ as its elected Communications Officer – my role was to write for our University’s newsletter, edit some articles and other broadcasts sent out.
What is your mainstream job?
I was born to a family of entrepreneurs (father runs a successful, self-made business and elder brother is into education business) so there has always been inclination to do things for my own.
I first started an International Logistics organisation and it is doing pretty well now, been around for over 10 years. It is the one that pays my bills.
Then I also ventured out into hospitality business and setup a restro-bar. Very recently have started a small travel-division as an extension of hospitality.
Overall I intend to continue entrepreneurship pursuits for life. The biggest advantage of working for yourself is that you are master of your time and you get to decide which risks are worth taking. It also (in my case) helps you to push the envelope and chase bigger milestones in life.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors? Which author inspire you the most?
I am a voracious reader indeed. One cant be a writer if he/ she isn’t a reader in the first place. In fact more of my time is taken by reading than writing, which is how it should be.
I generally read all kind of books though I prefer the Indian authors more. Also I do not read romance as a genre, I prefer satires, biographies or tales of inspiration.
My all-time favorite author is Zubin J Shroff, and I particularly love his book – The Gandhian Adventures. It’s a light satire and even though I don’t think this book did too well as compared to his other works, it remains my personal favorite.
When did you start writing?
It must have been in school. I still remember a newsletter called NEWSJOY, it was a weekly for teenagers and I frequently used to contribute small articles on regular teenage issues. I still cherish a small token of appreciation in form of a certificate that they sent me across. 
When did you decide to become a writer?
The desire was always there (again from school I think). Though I was pretty sure that it won’t be enough as it’s not a very rewarding career (monetarily). Chetan Bhagat hadn’t arrived back then…
Somewhere in college I had decided that if after working for 8-10 years, I am able to make reasonable money to cushion myself, then I will take the plunge and venture into writing. So in a way, it was a very planned move.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Very big. Over the next five years I want my ‘Roadtrippers Series’ to be completed and taken well by the readers. Then I have another series on ‘Sporting Heroics’ which I intend to develop after travel.
Overall I see myself coming out with a book every two years atleast.
I don’t care too much about the results in the sense that I never intend to take up writing to make wealth. Life has been kind to me, and so whatever money I make from selling books is anyway going to charity. (proceeds from my debut book goes to CRY)
I am chasing a bigger purpose here – to create a legacy. To create a body of work that gives reading pleasure along with provoking soul-searching. 
Is this your debut work?
Yes, it is by debut released work. COLORFUL NOTIONS was 1.0 of India’s first travel-fiction series that I am developing. The series is titled THE ROADTRIPPERS. It is going to be a trilogy.
What genre are your books?
The genre is travel-fiction, a sort of a criss-cross between travelogue and pulp-fiction. As much as I am committed to it; I do not want to be labelled as a ‘travel writer’; if anything I am eager to share that next series/ trilogy is going to be about sports.
I would like my writing-style to make readers think about life, and inspire them to achieve at the same time.

Can you describe your current book in few lines? What’s it about?
Colorful Notions is a 10000 km roadtrip that three twenty-five somethings undertake; they have their own set of personal issues and demons in their cupboard. But they decide to chuck it aside and go on this exciting roadtrip across 25 destinations in India and make a movie out of it.
Throughout their journey, they have some exciting and enviable misadventures. They also evolve in their personal life journeys, often fighting but coming back together again and end up being better off than where they started. 
Give us an insight into your main character(s)
So there are three main protagonists here; Abhay a rich-dude having a dysfunctional family and unresolved issues with his mother. He is also the narrator and the guy who conceived this idea of road-trip. Colorful Notions is mainly his story.
There is Sashank or Sasha, his best friend who comes along for the sake of adventure and nothing better to do. He is a foodie, a simple guy who needs Abhay in everything that he ought to go after. He has a lovely girl-friend and an unhappy career.
Unnati the x-factor for the story is Sasha’s girl-friend who sees herself as ignored by her beau, and joins this road-trip to spend more time with him.
Where do your ideas come from?
I have always had this belief that every person has many facets. The right metaphor for it will be like Ravana; every person has ten different individuals living inside him/ her. I guess I pick up all shades of my characters from my own personality traits and my Ravana’s different manifestations.
As far as plot is concerned, I look for inspiration and little anecdotes everywhere. 
How much research did you do for this book?
Because COLORFUL NOTIONS is a travel book, I had to do some extensive research especially regarding the road-maps. I mean I can’t just make that stuff up. Then I also had to be authentic with local cuisine and eateries etc.
But mostly the research went into finding about the genre. I was amazed to find this genre being so untapped by Indian authors. Maybe a little lack of imagination is to be blamed?
Our readers’ are flooded with love stories, crime fiction, and mythology-of-late but no travel stories. 
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
As I said above, lack of a clear-market, and this goes out to my entire series. There are travelogues but no travel-fictions.
The biggest risk and challenge I face is my ‘ideal’ target audience doesn’t pick up the book at all, dismissing it as a travelogue (traditionally, a non-fictional and say-as-you-see account of one’s travels). It is a threat I knew before I typed out the first line. But I am going by my own conviction here of doing something meaningful in long-term.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Interesting question. If given the opportunity, I’d like some young movie stars to play protagonists here. As far as persona-matching is concerned, Abhay will be played by Aditya Roy Kapoor and Sasha by his real-life brother, Kunaal Roy Kapoor.
Unnati will be Kalki Koechlin.
Not just their energies, but even their physical characteristics match my characters exactly the way they are!
What are you working on at the minute?
Roadtrippers 2.0, tentatively titled Shangri-La. While 1.0 was more about adrenalin rush of the youth, 2.0 is more mature in its content and character aspirations. This is a Himalayan adventure and through its never-ending secrets. Its redo of an English-classic, with a very Indian taste. I am most excited about this one.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I don’t know about other authors here, but I think writing series is actually better than a single book. In a series, you have a greater vision, a bigger canvas so to speak. Also your characters get an extended life so there is more to play with.
Though you have to keep them relevant in every book, and with same core personality, so that’s a challenge too. 
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t write for money or fame. The returns are too slow and indefinite. Also, only one in a million authors becomes a JK Rowling. The odds are too low. Don’t chase them, there are many other simpler ways of attaining name/ fame/ money.
Write because you get real joy out of it. Write because you have a story to tell. Because you love doing it. If you write with a carrot dangling in front of you, your work will never be honest. 
Links for your book readers