Tuesday, January 26, 2016

1000 Kilograms of Goa by Rohan Govenkar : A Review


BOOK TITLE: 1000 Kilograms of Goa

AUTHOR: Rohan Govenkar

ISBN/ASIN: 978-8192681078

GENRE: Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 240

FORMAT: Paperback

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: The author sent me a review copy in exchange for a honest review

SUMMARY:

Seven years after they last met in college, four best friends set out for a reunion holiday to Goa. Strange but alluring circumstances compel them to break the stereotype of a beach vacation and let themselves wild.

Instead of treasuring memories, they memorize treasure-maps. Instead of scoring keys, they duplicate keys. Instead of haunting discotheques, they break into haunted-like houses. Instead of partying at EDM festivals, they gatecrash birthday parties. Instead of hitting on random hot women, they grow into subjects of hot pursuit. De-stress becomes distress, and their jolly vacation transforms itself into a cabaret of headless chickens.

What motivates them to let adrenaline shoot to potent levels? What inspires them to act in a manner they’d term insane in their otherwise normal worlds? Is it a fair gamble or just another wild goose chase? Or is it really a goose that lays the golden eggs?

Find out as you lose yourself in the frenzied, gripping and adventuresome tale about the 1000 kilograms of Goa.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

When the author contacted me for review purposes, I was immediately intrigued by the title. Khoa being one of my favorite sweets, and what I thought was obviously a misnomer. But as I looked closer, I just HAD to find out why the book talked about 1000 kilograms of a place. It was obviously a fun read and the author sent me a gift card to buy the book for myself. And when it arrived, I immediately read the first few pages, being drawn into the story.

REVIEW:

Goa is one of the few places in India considered to be more of a tourist spot than famous for its local culture. This book proves this statement false. When any person, Indian or otherwise, thinks about Goa, a vision of good food, drinks, endless beaches and sunny sand comes to their mind. But what if a book wanted to show the other, lesser known side of Goa and Goans? Who other than a true Goan could do it? What if a book told you about everything you needed to know about Goa, everything official records and other tourist pamphlets didn't mention - at all? What if Goa is actually a land of many more mysteries and exotic and lesser known locations than the widely popular image it is known for? Read this book to know this and more.

From the prologue, where the talk shifts from Honda Activa to a confusing Russian in the beat of an eye, this book promised to be a different fun ride. Instead of talking about Goa as the tourist heaven, this book takes you on a treasure hunt - so realistic that the state itself would earn a new respect from the readers. Ashwin narrates the 'story', with each paragraph only mounting more interest than the previous one. The exciting treasure hunt and thrilling rides make the book a page turner. Ashwin, Bhavesh, Ifthikar, Priya and Pratik never let your interest wane even for a moment.

Before I actually began reading this book, the impression I had about the story and the setting where totally reversed by the time I was halfway through. This was one of those rare books that gave me the feeling, "oh, the story is almost over, why are there these many pages left?" when the author surprises with a great anti climax. I am not quoting anything from this book because I was too busy absorbing the story and enjoying the ride to notice each and every knack. The cover, summary and story come together in a confluence of well written, well formed words that give the reader a satisfaction.

Rohan Govenkar has penned a book that I would definitely read more than once. The story and the narration are such that I would have to read it more than once to appreciate the nuances of the setting. I will never look at Goa with my green tinted glasses again, and it would not be an exaggeration to say, this book has made me want to visit the land for myself.

Would I read this book again? Yes.

Would I recommend this to my friends? Yes.

Could I find faults with this story? Oh yes. But they did not hamper the reading.

Did I get a feel, at any point while reading, that this was a debutante's work? NO.

That is the power of narration Rohan has! A book that would stay with me for a long time to come.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The title and the really attractive cover.
  • The exciting summary and the book that lives up to it.
  • Showing Goa in a different light..

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The ending drags a bit - only a little bit.
  • If you look for romance - or expect the story to turn towards romance, no go!
  • Who am I kidding? I am just trying to point out faults, searching for them. This book has very less faults!

VERDICT:

1000 kilograms of Goa - 200+ pages of pure exhilarating read!

RATING: 4.5/5

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback

PRICE Rs.99 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Right or Almost Right by John Haremza : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Right or Almost Right: The Fine Line Between Phenomenal Success and Average Results in Network Marketing

AUTHOR: John Haremza

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1681020525

GENRE: Non Fiction - Self Help

NUMBER OF PAGES: 174

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura Fabiani of iRead Book Tours for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Right or Almost Right is based on John Haremza’s 25 years of success in network marketing. It’s John’s answer to the questions so many ask such as, “Where’s the money? Why am I not seeing the success I expected?” As John says, “I meet so many intelligent, hard-working, dedicated network marketers who are struggling. They are not seeing the results they expected, and they always as, “Why?” John believes that the small subtleties of how the network marketing business is done make the big difference between making a little money versus making a lot of money, between success and struggling. He addresses many of the basics of doing “the business,” from prospecting to leading your organization, and points out what is “right” as compared to what is “almost right.” John has lived every example contained in his book. “Network marketing changed my life beyond my wildest imagination,” says John. His story is amazing, from living in a trailer park to a well-known network marketing leader. And his story can help you to make your dreams come true too!

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The word 'almost' is one of the most underrated, misused words in the English language. There is a subtely to the word that is hard to understand. The difference between 'right' and 'almost right' is simultaneously huge and little. There is only one 'right'. When it is 'almost right', it is automatically 'wrong' and 'not enough'.

The title captured my attention and I picked up the book based on the summary that said this was his story - of failures, inspiration and subsequent success. The title and the approach were the book's speciality.

REVIEW:

Self help books are a dime a dozen. Most books follow near improbable success stories, sometimes making readers think, 'oh, really? That stroke of opportunity / luck would visit anyone, I am sure'. But Right or Almost Right takes a different outlook. To give the best praise for the book : It is as different as its title. The beginning, the writing and the major things that are highlighted - everything is given in a style that makes people related to it.

Right or almost right? Most often, we end up doing things we think are right and miss opportunities and success by a hairsbreadth. It is at these times that we feel the difference between 'right' and 'almost right'. When everything seems right, but still success eludes you, that is when you reanalyze and check if you have done things right or not. The book explains this concept well and manages to point out common mistakes that people in this field make. The author has clearly highlighted the differences between right and almost right by clearly putting it in boxes.

The book conveys what it wants to convey in very simple words. Here are a few quotes that would give the reader an idea of what to expect.

When the time came to choose between marriage and business:(with the marriage succeeding of course)

"I believe it to be far less damaging to a relationship to try something and risk failure, than it would be to live with the resentment of never having tried at all."

While talking about the family trying to dissuade him

"With the best of intentions people will try to steer you off course, to nudge you off course, to persuade you off course, to distract you off course. They will try to convince you that you are dreaming."

In response to colleauges taunting him:

"...the worst that can happen is that I’ll have to come back and get a job like you have."

Being self deprecating and still managing to encourage people (talking about his dyslexia and feelings of inferiority)

"My experience has convinced me that if I can succeed in this business with my severe limitations and background, then anyone can do it."

On Objections:

"A common mistake network marketers make is that when they’re faced with an objection, they end up arguing. When this occurs, your prospects’ defenses come up and they shut down on you."

In short, Right or Almost Right is an enlightening book - one that would give the reader good lessons - not only in network marketing field but also otherwise.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The author's writing style is straightforward, simple and clean.
  • The book is not a network marketing manual. It is not preachy.
  • The quotes and notable points given across the 'story'.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • This is not a self help book that can convince you to go ahead with networking. If you are looking for blind motivation, this is not it!
VERDICT:

Find the actual difference between 'Right and Almost Right'

RATING: 4.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After he graduated high school, John got a job as a machine operator at the potato chip plant. When he was promoted to maintenance manager he thought that this $22,000 a year job was the best job he could ever hope for. Then he was introduced to Network Marketing and his life changed forever.

John’s story is one of those American rags to riches, from adversity and obscurity to a life of dreams. Now after spending 23 years in network marketing John has earned over $12 million.

He has been responsible for product sales of over $500 million. His teams have earned over $200 million in commissions and he is featured in numerous publications and has produced 100’s of sales tools to support his teams. Currently, a regular speaker, consultant and author, John hopes to bring his message of Right or Almost Right to the masses.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Digital

PRICE $9.81 for Kindle, $14.24 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Book Spotlight : Giving Candy to Strangers by Stan Holden





Book Description for Giving Candy to Strangers:

Too many sales people are focused on the end result, the outcome—the close—and another notch on their gun! But, what if you approached “sales” from a heart-centered standpoint, with curiosity and playfulness, as though the world were your sandbox?

What if you created relationships for no other reason than to help others and make new friends? I know what you are saying, "How can it not be about results when it comes to business?"

The bottom line is important, but if you detach from this burden while you are creating relationships, you will find that the health of your bottomline will improve on its own!



Author's Bio:

Stan Holden, owner of The LooneyBin Creative Studio, has created work for many Fortune 100 companies. As a protégé, he was first published in a national magazine during the 5th grade. A graduate of California University Long Beach, his screenplay, Rebel Without A Claus, has received a "recommend" by Disney and optioned for filming. He resides in Irvine, CA, with his wife, Reneé, and their two teenagers, Sara and William.

Connect with the author:    Website   Twitter   Facebook

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Kite Runner

AUTHOR: Khaled Hosseini

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1594631931, 9781594480003

GENRE: Fiction / Asian American

NUMBER OF PAGES: 400

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone.

SUMMARY:

“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime." 
Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir's choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had. The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, 

The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies. A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.


FIRST IMPRESSION:

A book that has too many 'first impressions'. I have been meaning to read this for so long now that I have forgotten what was actually the very first memory I had of hearing about it. Everything is so glazed. 

But when I began reading this book, I did so with a single minded concentration, not minding the discomfort I felt or the curious stares I got, my eyes glued to my mobile screen. Of the umpteen reasons why I put off reading this book, not having it in paperback was one of the top five. But finally, a right motivation made me read the book, and once I started, as they say, there was no looking back, or up, or to the sides, for that matter.

REVIEW:

The Kite Runner. I have heard of Kite flyer, kite maker and a few other words denoting professions related to making and flying a kite. But Kite Runner was a new term, as I would learn when I read the book, used for people who caught the kite that was cut off in a competition. The title was not actually what made me pick this book up. It was the praise it got, the critics who raved about it and the people who told me I hadn't read proper modern literature until I had read Hosseini. Many taunts and shocking exclamations later, here I am, writing a review for one of the most talked about books in the last decade.

As with many other books that came with their fair share of warnings and tips for recovery, this book dampened my excitement every time I began to read it in the past. The mere reaction I saw fellow book lovers having made me shy away from the paperback that seemed to traumatise everyone who read it. In the end though, curiosity won over discomfort. What followed next is one of the most concentrated spells of reading I have ever had in recent times. (Well, having a deadline helped, but it was mostly because of captivating writing and the urge to see if the book was worth all the hype surrounding it).

The Kite Runner is not a book that would easily let you forget what it told you. It is one of those rare books that will leave you thinking about the dialogues and certain descriptions long after you have read the last page. It is one of those books that will make you see the world around with certain aloofness that comes only when the heart has been affected. It is a book that will make you look at stories of refugees (something you merely looked at with pity and probably a sense of righteous outrage till then) with a mixed sense of horror and deep seated sadness. The book is one of those that seems so realistic that you begin to believe it is not real. At all.

The book, its plot, the character sketches have been discussed enough, with reactions varying from utmost disgust and shock at the story to religious, fanatic devotion to the story and the writer. It does help that Hosseini is an outsider from inside Afghanistan. The reader gets a misplaced sense of having read a firsthand account, or at least one that is based on so many facts that it has to be true. For after all, while happiness could be fabricated, sadness seldom is. The Kite Runner is right on so many levels. But it is wrong on so many more levels.

Reading the story of two little boys Amir and Hassan, and how their lives are changed one fateful winter night, one cannot but help feel the author has decided to write a tale so moving, so filled with sadness and the bitter bile of regret and redemption that you could almost realise from page one that Amir was going to make a few mistakes - mistakes for which he will spend the rest of his life repenting. After all, a happy tale would be one where Amir makes one mistake, realises his folly and does everything right after that. But no. This is poignant, a tale of how one man can never change the characteristics he had since birth, and how his childhood and upbringing affect the type of man he has grown up to be.

The story, as everyone might know by now, follows the line of the summary. But the effect the author intended it to have might have been a hit or a miss. Some people fell for it, some didn't. I don't belong to either category. Having had too much of preparation, I have to agree that I expected the worst and ended up being, in fact, pleasantly surprised at places. Maybe the reason why I did not shed a few tears while I actually read the book was because I had already shed many when I was being told off for not reading it and feeling bad that I was, indeed, missing a classic. That being said, I am immensely grateful for everyone who insisted I read this book. Thanks to you, I can finally say I have read a good book.

What worked for me was the writing. The sway the author held over his readers and the power his words had. There are a few powerful quotes and lines I would take back with me for a long time to come, and certain things I wouldn't forget. Ever. But what did not work for me is the story itself. While the writing made an ordinary story extraordinary, the same writing was what made me despise the character who was supposed to be searching for redemption. While I certainly do understand the reasons why Amir became who he was, I would never accept or agree with him as a person. The power of the author was in making me abhor his lead character in such a way I had not even hated the famous super villains. Amir as a child, and later on as a man, even when he grows up and repents and feels deep remorse, did not strike me as a basically good man. Amir had a troubled childhood, a childhood he had troubled for himself. Children who have had it worse have turned out better.

This book has the curious distinction of being one that made me hate the story as much as I loved the writing. Maybe I was too uncomfortable to stomach the harsh realities, or maybe this book shattered some beliefs I had on the innocence of childhood, or maybe because after all, this is a story that made the reader cry, and strongly dislike a few characters, one of which (for me at least) happens to be the narrator, Amir. While I loved Hassan and his bordering-on-dubiously-unrealistic goodness, his father Ali, whom he obviously took after, the earth shattering secret that Baba jan (Amir's father, an upper class elite) harbored, and of course, Rahim Khan, who, of all the characters in the book, was one person who showed just how important it was to offer little children timely encouragement that did not border on mindless devotion, and still manage to correct them with a gentle nudge here and a firm prod there.

I really love the book for making me so involved with the characters that I talk about them in such great detail. Love or hate felt towards a character with such great intensity is the author's victory. One of the aspects about this story that seemed too harsh and too real was the fact that it showed, clearly, that caste based prejudices need not exist only in evil people. It might crop up even in those whose upbringing is normal and considered open minded. It is true that I hated Amir ever since he escaped the bullies by saying Hassan was not his friend but merely a servant (and in turn getting his life out of the gutter by timely intervention by the said Hassan, and not even bothering to thank him for it and instead running away whenever he realised that Hassan was 'so true that anyone who was around him felt phony'). But I did realise that Amir was not one man but a representation of many men and women today.

I am going to recount here a few words that I would remember forever. These are the words that I take back from the book, words that made me realise, no matter how much I hated what I feel is a single minded, focused, horrific portrayal of humanity's darkest emotions in a story, the book in itself was so good it almost prevented me from reading another one soon. Almost.

One of the first quotes that impressed me. 

"Children aren't coloring books. You don't get to colour them with your favorite colors."

The quote that made me pick the book up and read it, finally. And something I agree with - an over simplified, yet eerily true definition of sin.

"There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft... When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steam someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?"

The following paraphrase from the book is one that gave me the chills, almost as if I knew something horrible was about to happen - something that would change the story - the turning point if you will. There was no thrilling background music, no need for any other visual effects. Just the words that give a strange sense of foreboding.

The old man sits against a mud wall. His sightless eyes are like molten silver embedded in deep, twin craters [...]

He takes Hassan's hand first, strokes the palm with one hornlike fingernail, round and round, round and round. The finger then floats to Hassan's face and makes a dry, scratch sound as it slowly traces the curve of his cheeks, the outline of his ears. The calloused pads of his fingers brush against Hassan's yes. The hand stops there. Lingers. A shadow passes across the old man's face. Hassan and I exchange a glance. The old man takes Hassan's hand and puts the rupia back in Hassan's palm.

These words that reflected what every man who has faced the war actually feels against those he considers had turned their back to their nation at the time of need and moved west in search of greener pastures.

This is the first time you've ever worn a pakol. That's the real Afghanistan, Agha sahib. That's the Afghanistan I know. You? You've always been a tourist here, you just didn't know it." [...] Rahim Khan had warned me not to expect a warm welcome in Afghanistan from those who had stayed behind and fought the wars.

This cherophobic paragraph that hits too close for comfort.

"She said, 'I'm so afraid'. And I said, 'Why?", and she said, 'Because I'm so profoundly happy, Dr. Rasul. Happiness like this is frightening.' I asked her why and she said, 'They only let you be this happy if they're preparing to take something from you,' and I said, 'Hush up, now. Enough of this silliness.'"

And a few other gems like these:

"But I hope you will heed this: A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer. I hope your suffering comes to an end with this journey to Afghanistan."

"It would be erroneous to say Sohrab was quiet. Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the VOLUME knob on life.
Silence is pushing the OFF button. Shutting it down. All of it."

To sum up my totally contradictory views about the book : It is something that I would ask others to read. Not because they should learn the story, but because they can realise just how violently a book could make one react. To show them the power words have to hurt, to scar and to heal. I would never agree with the storyline that says Amir is in search of redemption, for my dislike towards him is so intense that no matter what he does or says, fact remains that repeated mistakes from his end only made things worse for him and those around him. As a solace, the author himself ends the story thus, summing up my feelings about Amir and the story as is. (The reaction was from Hassan's son - a little boy whose timely intervention saved Amir's life much as his father's had done).

"It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn't make everything all right. It didn't make anything all right."

Do I recommend this book? Yes, if you are prepared to have your mind totally messed up with a shocking reality that you would find hard to come to terms with. Do I give you a fair warning? Oh yes, like thousands before me would probably have done - this thing should come with a statutory warning: 'Not for the weak hearted, fun loving people'.

And the ultimate question - have I done justice to this book in this review? Probably not. But this review is a reflection of the book itself. It is one that you might strongly agree or disagree with. This is just my opinion on an universally acclaimed book. A book that I am grateful I read, but a story I would rather forget.


WHAT I LIKED:
  • Hassan - and the decisions he took and maturity he showed all through the story - I loved this kid ever since he asked why people did not cut onions rather than kill people they love (and then cry over it) if they wanted their eyes to have tears.
  • The writing - so descriptive and powerful
  • The book itself - for living up to the hype that still surrounds it, more than a decade since it was first released


WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • Amir - I sincerely wish his path to redemption was at least an honest attempt not focusing on any of his selfish, misguided sense of righteousness.
  • The portrayal of Afghanistan - for someone who was an insider, I expected the author to bring out the beauty and the truly enthralling landscape that the country must have once been, before human ego and warfare destroyed it. If the people of the nation would not sing its beauty, which outsider will?
  • The overall tone of the book - in managing to have not one light moment and veering stiffly towards the well defined borders of black and gray and an underlying, shocking sadistic reality it so effortlessly talks about.


VERDICT:

There is no 'verdict'. This book lives up to its name - a name you should be wary of. Read this at your own risk.

P.S. If you have really patiently come so far down after the rambling review - this book really is a good read - not for the story but for the writing. It is not exceptional, but it has a strange, sometimes shocking but nevertheless memorable writing.

In one sentence. This book is terrifyingly beautiful.

RATING: 4.0/5


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. In 1970 Hosseini and his family moved to Iran where his father worked for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Tehran. In 1973 Hosseini's family returned to Kabul, and Hosseini's youngest brother was born in July of that year.

In 1976, when Hosseini was 11 years old, Hosseini's father obtained a job in Paris, France, and moved the family there. They were unable to return to Afghanistan because of the Saur Revolution in which the PDPA communist party seized power through a bloody coup in April 1978. Instead, a year after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, in 1980 they sought political asylum in the United States and made their residence in San Jose, California.

Hosseini graduated from Independence High School in San Jose in 1984 and enrolled at Santa Clara University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1988. The following year, he entered the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, where he earned his M.D. in 1993. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in 1996. He practiced medicine for over ten years, until a year and a half after the release of The Kite Runner.

Hosseini is currently a Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He has been working to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan through the Khaled Hosseini Foundation. The concept for the foundation was inspired by the trip to Afghanistan that Hosseini made in 2007 with UNHCR.

He lives in Northern California with his wife, Roya, and their two children (Harris and Farah).

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback, Audio book

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Of Marriageable Age by Sharon Maas : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Of Marriageable Age

AUTHOR: Sharon Maas

ISBN/ASIN: 9788175993129

GENRE: Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 520

FORMAT: Paperback

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Fingerprint! publishers for this review copy

SUMMARY:

A magical story of forbidden love, spanning three continents and three decades. Set against the Independence struggles of two British colonies, Of Marriageable Age is ultimately a story of personal triumph against a brutal fate, brought to life by a colorful cast of characters . . . 

Savitri, intuitive and charismatic, grows up among the servants of a pre-war English household in the Raj. But the traditional customs of her Brahmin family clash against English upper-class prejudice, threatening her love for the privileged son of the house. 

Nataraj, raised as the son of an idealistic doctor in rural South India, finds life in London heady, with girls and grass easily available… until he is summoned back home to face raw reality. 

Saroj, her fire hidden by outward reserve, comes of age in Guyana, South America. When her too-strict, orthodox Hindu father proves to have feet of clay she finally rebels against him... and even against her gentle, apparently docile Ma. But Ma harbours a deep secret… one that binds these three so disparate lives and hurtles them towards a truth that could destroy their world.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The first reaction I had when I first held the book in my hands was a skeptical look at its length. The summary sounded promising, and a casual turning of the pages gave me more hope. The printing and the fonts were clear. I took a lot of time to actually begin reading this story. But once I began, thankfully, the story drew me in so I could finish it quicker than I imagined.

REVIEW:

Whenever a book spans more than a few decades in its timeline, it should give constant reminders about the current timeline. When a book is written about more than a few central characters (no matter what form of narrative it is in) each character should be given the proper highlighting, and maintain a uniqueness so readers can understand and identify the differences. If a book spans across more than one city / country / continent, the descriptions should be unique and pertaining to that particular country, not missing the nativity of that particular geographical area. If a book combines all three, the work and research that must go into this is astounding. The author has done a commendable job in this area.

Savithri - a Brahmin cook's daughter who falls in love with the employer's son, Nat, an aspiring doctor, and Saroj are the three main characters this book follows. Set in India, Europe and South America, the book alternates between these three places and three decades. There is a relationship, a common link that connects these three people and that is revealed only after the better part of the book is over. The stories are taken forward almost independently until they merge together. There is an underlying current of suspense and a suspicion that each character is not what it seems to be.

The book tackles issues of arranged marriage and the freedom given to children to choose their life partners, casteism, classist differences, racism and has strong women characters. Most often, I had to keep reminding myself I was reading a book set five to seven decades ago. The narrative is gripping enough. The descriptions are life like, the scenes evenly spaced and the current of suspense making sure the reader keeps turning the pages. But the length is a huge turn off, even for three stories fused into one. The detailing justifies it only to a little bit.

Strong dialogues are an added plus. The characters are deep, complex and make the reader want to root for them. Savitri's forbidden love, Saroj trying to have a say in finding her own life partner and each central character having their own stories and thoughts that seamlessly merge towards a common focal point. The narrative, though shifting between various timelines and geographically diverse areas, still manages to make sense if the character is remembered. The writing is very descriptive and takes the reader to the described scene.

Overall a good book once you get past the apparently huge length. Thoughtful and clean writing.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The descriptions add pages to the story but are effective in drawing the reader into the story.
  • The climax neatly wraps everything up - even though it seems too tidy, it gives an odd sense of satisfaction. The fact that no loose ends remained after such a long narrative is applaudable.
  • I loved the strong dialogues - some of which were very memorable, and of course thought provoking

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The timelines could have been added with the character names at the beginning of chapters so reader is less confused by constantly shifting between the three different decades
  • The length (with rich, detailed descriptions though) would deter some casual readers
  • Some twists gave a more dramatic, 'oh, come on!' feel than the thud in the stomach that was the expected reaction.

VERDICT:

A detailed, geographically diverse love saga. If you have the patience with long books, don't miss this!

RATING: 3.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sharon Maas was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, and spent many childhood hours either curled up behind a novel or writing her own adventure stories. Sometimes she had adventures of her own, and found fifteen minutes of Guyanese fame for salvaging an old horse-drawn coach from a funeral parlor, fixing it up, painting it bright blue, and tearing around Georgetown with all her teenage friends. The coach ended up in a ditch, but thankfully neither teens nor horse were injured. Boarding school in England tamed her somewhat; but after a few years as a reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown she plunged off to discover South America by the seat of her pants. She ended up in a Colombian jail, but that's a story for another day.

In 1973 she travelled overland to India via England, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. After almost two years in an Indian Ashram she moved to Germany, got an education, got a job, got married, had children, and settled down. She still lives in Germany after three and a half decades, but maintains close ties and great love for both India and Guyana; and, somewhat reluctantly, for England.

Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, was published in 1999 by HarperCollins, and is set in India, Guyana and England. Two further novels, Peacocks Dancing and The Speech of Angels, followed.

Sharon will soon be entering the digital world with the e-publication of Of Marriageable Age through the Women's Fiction publisher Bookouture -- revised, and with a brand new cover.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Digital, Audio

PRICE Rs. 245 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Guruji's Ashram by Sunil Sinha : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Guruji's Ashram

AUTHOR: Sunil Sinha

ISBN/ASIN: 978-9352013142

GENRE: Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 302 pages

FORMAT: Paperback

SERIES / STANDALONE:Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank the author for this signed Paperback. Special thanks for his patience and courtesy.

SUMMARY:

Three people died simultaneously in different parts of India, seemingly unrelated but as the investigation progressed the investigators started finding evidences which ultimately not only related these incidents but opened doors to an investigation which was a much larger conspiracy, beyond anyone’s imagination.

Tapas had a good job, a bright future and was about to marry the girl he loved but fate suddenly turned against him. That’s when he met a spiritual Guru who taught him Pranayama, meditation, and the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. Soon, he started taking classes of Pranayama, meditation and started giving Gita pravachan for a small fee. With this modest beginning, he went on to having the largest ashram in India at Puri, Odisha and many ashrams in various countries around the world.

An MLA, an American and an Ayurvedic doctor, were instrumental in his rise.

Everything was going well for everyone until there was a murder in the ashram.

What was really going on?

Was the ashram really, what it was supposed to be?

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Guruji's Ashram is one of the most simple yet diverse titles. The summary gave me enough reasons to pick this book up and when it was offered as a review copy, I took it up. The cover is simple - way too simple to tell you anything about the story. It was a deceptive illusion to veer the readers away from realising the story was anything but. The font and print were clear and easy on the eye and that is a rarity nowadays.

REVIEW:

Ashrams are usually defined and assumed to be places of religion and sprituality, calming environments that people go to when they want peace of mind. Ashrams are also the places where man connects with God, or at least that is how they should be. But of late, the reality is shockingly different and no matter how benevolent the Gurujis seem to be, or no matter how pure the ashram looks, due to a few unsavoury activities involving a few fake religious leaders, the ashram life is looked at with a bit of scorn by a large part of the society. But even amidst this skepticism, a large number of people still believe in Gurujis. Such wide disparity has led to unscrupulous people taking advantage of the name and fame of some real leaders and use the huge following to their benefit, monetary and otherwise.

So it was not much of a surprise when Guruji's Ashram - a seemingly innocent title had a far deeper meaning. Tapas is leading a normal life. An enviably normal life. He is about to marry the love of his life. But fate has other plans for him. His life falls apart and like most people, he is attracted towards the spiritual guidance. Pranayama and meditation give him peace of mind and Bhagavat Gita puts his life in perspective. Soon, the pupil becomes the teacher and Tapas starts preaching what he learnt to others. His rise is meteoric and he becomes the guruji of one of the most popular chain of ashrams. How was this rise possible? Who was behind this success? And how could the murder of three 'unrelated' people make sense and have a common threads. What if suicides were strategically planned murders?

As it is, the book has enough content to keep the reader's interest alive. The shenanigans of few 'respected' people are distasteful and sometimes horrific. The story moves at a steady pace that maintains the suspense. It does not drag even when certain philosophical content is thrown in. The narrative seems well researched and various topics are discussed at length. But the trouble with writing detailed procedures in a book is that real readers have more options and chances to find plotholes. Experts in their own fields would find and point out certain vague inconsistencies in the narrative (not mentioning them because they might spoil the story). But these are not factors that would deter an average reader who likes a good book that moves at a steady pace and keeps the interest going.

While the book is not entirely 'un-put-down-able', it can be read at a go without feeling the strain. What this book needs to obtain that elusive status is tighter editing. A few glaring typos and sentence construction errors ruin the pace. Explicit detailing in certain lovemaking scenes leave the reader cringing and wondering whether the details were necessary for the flow of the story. The adverse effect is what it gets - it greatly reduces the adrenaline rush of reading a thriller. Certain scenes do not fit in the thriller genre, at least not to the extent where they seem like additions the story could do without.

Overall, a satisfying book, though cliched at some places, it gives you your time's worth. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The summary and the plot
  • The narrative that manages to hold the readers's interest despite the distractions
  • The extra information given and the research that has obviously been done to make this book more believable.


WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • Explicit detailing in certain scenes that bordered on eroticism - they did not give any credible value to the story
  • The sense of foreboding given by the abovementioned scenes - a sense of disaster waiting to happen.
  • The cover is way too simple and might deter a few prospective readers who would hesitate to read the back cover.


VERDICT:

A book that will surely hold your interest.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sunil Sinha was born in Jamshedpur and brought up in Rourkela, a steel township in Odisha. After completing his MA and LLB from Sambalpur University, Odisha, he worked with different private companies for a few years before starting his own business. Sunil has extensive experience in domestic and international trade. He has done business with buyers from many countries. He has also launched several new products and has experience in product development right from inception to sales.

Sunil enjoys reading, travelling and adventure sports. Currently, he lives in Bangalore with his wife and children.

Guruji's Ashram is his first novel. His second novel "I am not a Terrorist" was published in November 2015.

RATING: 3.5/5

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback

PRICE Rs. 237 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cruel and Unusual : Guest Post by D M Annechino author of A Piece of You

Cruel and Unusual

The appreciation of any art form is highly subjective. Whether it’s novel writing, film making, music, sculpting, painting, or singing, everyone has a different opinion. To borrow a cliché, “One person’s junk is another’s treasure.” As a writer, I painfully understand that not all of my readers will be big fans. In fact, some will absolutely hate everything about my novels. There has never been a writer who escaped the harsh words of critics. Not one.

I truly appreciate constructive criticism. In fact, I gain more from negative feedback than I do from kudos. I can’t really grow as a writer by reading 5-Star reviews. But when a reader points out a flaw in the plot, a technical fault, or a continuity issue, I can learn from that criticism and improve my writing.

The one thing that puzzles me more than anything is why a critic chooses to be downright malicious. Some of the reader reviews I’ve read for all five of my novels just tear my heart out. When an author spends thousands of hours writing a novel, designing a plot, crafting sub-plots, creating interesting characters, and going through a comprehensive editorial process, why would anyone derive pleasure from slamming the author in a brutal way?

If my writing sucks to a particular reader, it sucks. But there are hundreds of ways to convey the same criticism without resorting to personal attacks or mean-spirited comments. Referring to They Never Die Quietly, one reader said, “This has to be one of the worst books I have ever read. It is filled with clichés. The writing is sophomoric at best. The dialogue between the killer and his mother is unoriginal and predictable. The plot is extremely predictable. Overall, the writing is terrible. It is what one would expect from a freshman who is taking his first creative writing class.” Hey Mr. Reviewer, don’t walk on eggshells. Tell me what you really think!

If there is any truth to the adage, “Misery loves company,” then I’m proud to be part of a really elite group because William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Stephen King, and even J.K. Rowling have gotten their share of crappy reviews. Guess I’ll spend less time licking my wounds and more time writing.  





A Piece of You by D.M. Annechino : A Review



BOOK TITLE: A Piece of You

ISBN/ASIN: B0153L2CY2

AUTHOR: D.M. Annechino

GENRE: Fiction / Mystery Thriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 305

FORMAT:Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Sami Rizzo series Book 3

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura Fabiani of iRead book tours for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Homicide Detective Sami Rizzo is at it again! She never dreamed “America’s Finest City,” would be tormented by yet another serial killer, but for the third time in the last five years a depraved maniac is stalking the streets of San Diego. Based on her qualifications and prior successes dealing with multiple murders, who else would Captain Davison assign to head the investigation?

Different from Sami’s past experiences, this fanatic is like no other. His methods of killing defy everything profilers think they know about serial killers. As an intense investigation begins and bits and pieces of evidence emerge, no one can understand his motivation. He’s merciful, yet brutal. And just to make things even more confusing, all of his victims are blood-related. Is he settling a vendetta? Did he randomly pick a name out of the phone book and begin a rampage? Or is there a deeper story? Based on very little evidence and a lot of gut instincts, Detective Rizzo pieces together a complex puzzle and narrows the field of possible suspects. She learns that the killings may connect in some way to powerful people within the judicial system and doesn’t know who to trust. Ultimately, she comes face to face with the killer for a battle of brain and brawn. Can she outwit the shrewd killer, or will she be his next victim?

FIRST IMPRESSION:

First Impressions are kind of moot point for a book belonging to a series because you have certain pre conceived notions about at least some of the characters involved in the story. But then, every installment of a series offers yet another carefully crafted story, and the author takes up the challenge to keep the same characters and give an entirely different story. Some books succeed in it. I have already read two books in this series and therefore, knew a little of what to expect in this one.

But to comment on the impression this particular book made on me, the first and foremost thing I noticed was the cover (well, of course) and it was alluring in a strange way. It is simple, striking and achieves what it sets out to do - shock the reader. But only after reading the story would I get to know the deeper significance of the piece missing from the whole jigsaw. The summary is crisp and offers a mild shade of intrigue.

REVIEW:

Thrillers - especially mystery thrillers that talk about serial killers and police procedures (probably featuring a detective from the force) have a certain formula to be followed. It is only with this base that the author is expected to work and bring up a masterpiece story that intrigues, excites, exhilarates and finally stuns a reader. A Piece of You does the first half of this well. It follows the template required for police thrillers and cooks up an interesting tale based on that.

Detective Sami Rizzo is now married to Al, who was, incidentally forgiven for his cheating excursion. Sami could not believe that the city might yet again be in the grip of a horrific serial killer. This time around, the killer follows a different modus operandi. He kills people and takes away... souvenirs. Sami, with her previous experiences in handling a few cases successfully, is called in to this case too. But what Sami does not bargain for is a conundrum of a killer. He is soft, yet harsh. His motives are unclear (yes, like many other serial killers, we get to know the story only almost near the end of the book). Sami finds it hard to classify him under any category.

While it is not new for a serial killer to justify all that he does with excuses that sound plausible and even sometimes justifiable - this killer takes the cake. His reasons, motive and thought process attract the reader and appeal to a twisted part of the readers brain. It takes a lot of clear brain to say no matter what the reason, a gruesome murder is a heinous act that steals a life. It does not help when the killer takes down members in a clan, making the reader wonder whether it was the case of family vendetta or a random act of chance.

Sami Rizzo goes about detecting in her usual style. No matter how disconnected the pieces seem, she tries to solve it with the sparse clues and her gut instinct. Of all the books I have read featuring Sami, I liked this one best. The serial killer is a brainy psycho and Sami barely misses falling in his hit list. The story has a few twists and turns, some of them predictable for a person who has read a few books from this genre. But overall, except for a few gory details, the story focuses more on the events rather than each killing in excruciating detail.

No matter what excuse is given, a serial killer has only a misguided motive and delusional attitude about revenge and payment for sins. To sum up best, the author himself writes beautifully about the killer's mindset.

Today I feel particularly overwhelmed with self-pity and grief. I think about what once was. What is no more. What can never be. The mere thought of vengeance excites me and fills me with great exhilaration. I can only conclude that the sweetness of revenge has a far greater impact on one’s soul than the burden of guilt or the consequence of judgment day.

If this does not say much about the book and the way he writes them, I don't know what else does. The language is engaging. There are a few editing errors - mostly those that can be overlooked. The plot and the build up to the climax are not very elaborate. With a few predictable twists and some rather unpleasant, shocking unpredictable turns, this story is one that will manage to hold your interest for a few hours together - hours you could use to finish this at a go.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The hidden meaning so beautifully portrayed by the cover image.
  • The character of Sami finally managing to attract the reader in me
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The story could have veered a bit farther away from protocol to make it more thrilling


VERDICT:

A book that will interest you if you are new to this genre. Overall a good, well thought out and well written thriller.

RATING: 4/5

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from IRead Book Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Daniel M. Annechino, a former book editor specializing in full-length fiction, wrote his first book, How to Buy the Most Car for the Least Money, in 1992 while working as a General Manager in the automobile business. But his passion had always been fiction, particularly thrillers. He spent two years researching serial killers before finally penning his gripping and memorable debut novel They Never Die Quietly. His second book, Resuscitation (Thomas & Mercer 2011), a follow-up to his first novel, hit #1 in Kindle sales in the UK and reached #26 in the USA. He is also the author of I Do Solemnly Swear (Thomas & Mercer 2012) and Hypocrisy. A Piece of You is his fifth novel, the third in the Detective Sami Rizzo series.

A native of New York, Annechino now lives in San Diego with his wife, Jennifer. He loves to cook, enjoys a glass of vintage wine, and spends lots of leisure time on the warm beaches of Southern California.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Kindle

PRICE $2.96 for Kindle, $10.94 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Other End Of The Corridor by Sujata Rajpal


BOOK TITLE: The Other End Of The Corridor

AUTHOR: Sujata Rajpal

ISBN/ASIN: 9781310086687

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank The Book Club for giving a chance to review this book and the author for this review copy

SUMMARY:

When your dreams are tainted with lies and deceit, you have no other choice but to walk to the other end of the corridor

Leela has nothing extraordinary about her except the dream to become famous. Her desires take wings when she gets married to a handsome boy from a respectable family in Delhi. But her dreams are shattered even before they have a chance to take flight. She happens to meet two friends from a long forgotten past, which infuses hope and opens new avenues to realize her dormant aspirations.

Leela delves into previously unexplored paths of deception and forbidden passions that only make her stronger.

In an attempt to rediscover herself, she falls in love with life and with herself but her life takes a sudden turn again… No matter what, Leela will continue to chase her dreams.

Where does this journey take her?

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The cover image was an immediate attraction. The image of a woman standing with her legs poised for walking across was brilliance in its simplicity. The summary promised a good read, and the moment I opened the epub file given to me, it was quite hard to put down.

REVIEW:

Every woman, no matter what her family backgroud, has hopes and dreams of a fairytale marriage. Irrespective of the age and class differences, each woman has expectations about how her married life would be. But the sad reality in this nation is that most of these dreams are crushed as mere infatuations and daydreams. Most of these dreams are shushed as forbidden pleasures. And the woman in question ends up being disappointed and severely uncertain. While some women chose to live with the life that was thrust upon them, some women struggle against the bonds and stretch their wings, setting themselves free.

Leela is a simple woman, and like every other woman of her age, is a really happy woman to be married to a handsome boy from a good family. What follows next is just a mirage. Perfect marriages exist only in dreams. And for a manglik girl, the fact that there was a boy to marry her is by itself a great feat. In a nation where horoscopes and dowry payments take more priority in deciding the marriage than the bride's wishes, Leela's marriage was no different. Reality strikes hard and she realises that her life was not what she expected. But having grown accustomed to being born as a girl and therefore being ignored and downtrodden, Leela takes it all until the dam breaks. What follows next is the rest of the story.

Special mention to the author for dealing with issues such as domestic abuse and how women try very hard to keep the marriage intact facing backlash from the society. It is a very prevalent shocking practice that many parents still assume that the responsibility they have towards a girl child is over once 'she becomes someone's wife'. Further stories of the hardships the girl might face at her new home are, at best, listened to with a sympathetic and helpless ear, with hopes that, one day, it will all be alright. Leela captures the reader's heart by being a very simple, unassuming girl who dreams wildly, but also tries her best to make do with what she was dealt with.

While other supporting characters are strong, it is the narration that holds the reader's interest. While stories like this are abundant, especially recently, very few manage to capture the thoughts of a woman who was always second to her good for nothing brother and abused at the hands of a man who should be her prince charming. Stories of marital abuse, consent, forbidden passions and coming of age rarely make such an impression as this. Leela shows that one's family background is not an issue to achieving dreams. Ending this book on a positive note (though expected) was the best thing that the author could have done to send the right message across.

VERDICT:
A book that set out with a message - and successfully conveyed it.

RATING: 3.8/5


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sujata Rajpal gave up her rewarding career as a Corporate Communication & PR professional in an IT MNC to become a full-time author – so far the best decision of her life. Sujata holds an MPhil degree in Economics and has studied Mass Communication from Panjab University, Chandigarh. She also writes articles and short stories for publications and journals, such as Femina, Deccan Herald, Star of Mysore. Her short stories have been published in E Fiction India and Women’s Web. She is a yoga enthusiast and enjoys being a Toastmaster. She currently lives in Mysore.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE Rs. 90 for Kindle, Rs. 119 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon