Saturday, October 21, 2017

Claire by Poornima Bhaskar : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Claire

AUTHOR: Poornima Baskar

ISBN/ASIN: B075SB24KP

GENRE: Fiction / Thriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 160

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Took this book up from Kindle Unlimited

SUMMARY:

A body found in the river has been identified as Claire Rewns, a happily married woman in town to sell her father's handmade toys. Her drowning could be just an accident. But too much doesn't add up and Detective Bracken's instinct is pushing him to probe every lead. With every road leading to a dead-end, is it possible that Bracken is just off his game? Or is there a missing piece to the puzzle that is Claire Rewns?

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Some books are from famous authors, and you wait with anticipation to get your hands on them as soon as they are released. And then there are books that are promoted so well, that you have no option but to become curious. And then there are few books that you hear about, and few books that you'd want to read because they pique your interest by the way of word-of-mouth talk from people 'in the know'. Claire came to me, recommended by a friend, with strong (and rightly placed) adjectives that made me want to pick it up and read immediately.

Claire - simply the master of minimalism in covers in recent times. With a simple hand stretching out of water, the whole picture in grey, the cover drew me to the book, making me want to know more. Special mention to the designer. And then there was the summary. Succinct and clear, the summary has just enough to get the reader engaged to the book. It introduces the central character and clearly identifies the questions that would be answered. So with many expectations, I dove into the book.

REVIEW:

There are always preconceived notions about the books we pick up to read, and most of them are decided on reading the title, summary and the author's name. The mind moulds itself into the notions and twists itself to read the book with this background data in mind. Claire effectively manages to break through three stereotypes. It is the work of a debutant author - but that is evident only if you know it beforehand. The book is based out of a western fictional town, with local characters, but it is written by an Indian author, a fact that the reader would forget when they read the book. A debutant has managed to steer clear of the tried and tested route of romance / inspirational semi autobiographical stories and has managed to write a clear thriller without resorting to any additional marketing substances inside the story. And for these, this book deserves a special mention.

Claire Rewns - found dead in a lake in the middle of nowhere, presumed drowned to her death. The investigating officers intially face an open and shut case. But with one of the officers having lingering doubts, and another officer behaving strangely enough to arouse suspicion, and yet another officer with a screaming gut instinct, they decide that Claire Rewns's death was anything but accidental. The investigation begins and rushes through a series of dead ends one after the another, making the lead detectives question everything they know. The leads all point to the woman being one of the most innocent people living on the earth - to the point of unrealism, and the race ends up as a mad scramble to find a crack in the perfect veneer.

How could a novel spin with one central character (it is aptly named, by the way) so tightly that the woman could dominate every line, every plot twist and every scene of a novel? How could someone, anyone, be so perfect that not one person remembers anything bad about her and still end up dead under doubtful circumstances? What could have happened in the middle of nowhere in the dead of the night that could have led to a woman's death? Claire (the novel) answers all these questions, as a racy narrative that does not slacken in any single scene. The book scores in the way it sets the plot, poses the questions and ends up answering each and every single one of them.

It is more than a simple murder mystery, and definitely more than the average thriller story. Claire's noteworthy points are its plot and the execution. The twist in the climax may work for some, and end up making some others wonder about the sleight of hand the author deftly practiced throughout the novel. Language wise, the self edited book could have reached a better position with editing, but at no point is the pace slackening. Nitpicking complaints, the book needs better background stories for the characters so the readers are emotionally invested in them, and it needs clarity in dialogues for the readers to follow the book's otherwise fast pace effortlessly. Overall, the book won even without the excuse of a debutant author (which was not factored in during this review) and I would look forward to reading more from the author very soon. The literary scene needs more such authors. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • A tight plot, with great twists that never let the pace down
  • All loose ends tied up with precision - a rarity in such novels.
  • That a single woman could dominate a novel despite being dead since the beginning - that is the highlight of the book.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The novel did justice to most of the characters but could have given a little more space to the detectives' view of things, especially Hailey.
  • Conversations needed more clarity, and sometimes better identify the speakers.
  • The book could have worked even better with descriptions that will get the readers to empathise with the characters more.
VERDICT:

Dead women tell tales - from the bottom of lakes if they have to! Go for it!

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Poornima Baskar is a blogger and writer living between Chennai and Singapore. She blogs at loudthoughtsvoicedout.wordpress.com. She has multiple viral blogs, with over 1.5 million hits across platforms.

She began writing her first novel six years ago and aligned its release date with her 25th birthday in 2017. Her book is a work of fiction, directly in contrast with her blogs that narrate her personal life and emotions.

When she's not writing, she is painting, sketching, or enjoying her coffee while cuddling with her dogs.




EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle

PRICE Rs. 192 for Kindle, free on Kindle Unlimited.

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Friday, August 11, 2017

Half Pants Full Pants by Anand Suspi : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Half Pants, Full Pants: Real-Life Tales from Shimoga

AUTHOR: Anand Suspi

ISBN/ASIN: 978-8193262016

GENRE: Biographical stories

NUMBER OF PAGES: 221

FORMAT: Paperback

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank The Book Club and the author for this review copy

SUMMARY:

Half Pants Full Pants is a sort of childhood autobiography set in Shimoga of the 70s and 80s. Given the era and milieu that he grew up in, it carries a flavor similar to that of Malgudi Days. All the characters in the book are real and most of them are still in Shimoga, of course now in their mid-40s. Quite a few are from prominent families and are now active and important members of Shimoga. The book vividly captures the real childhood adventures of this generation of people in Shimoga. It’s a glorious reminiscence as well as a tribute to this wonderful town.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

When this book came up as a review copy, the title was the first thing that intrigued me. With a deeper significance, the title that suggested a shift from childhood to adulthood via adoloscence made me want to pick the book up and read the summary. And the summary actually cinched it for me. Basically a lover of nostalgic tales that my father brought me up with, anything about the 70s and 80s interests me immediately. Half Pants Full Pants promised stories of a childhood in that era, making sure I read it as soon as I got my hands on it. Malgudi Days is one of my most favorite works of Narayan, and I began reading this book with the hope that Shimoga would be the next Malgudi.

REVIEW:

Half Pants Full Pants is a very refreshing tale. It stood out in my mind because it was different from the usual trope of stories that flood the market these days. The nostalgic feeling that accompanied the stories this book ensured that I did not put the book down once I began reading. The tales are split into two parts, the Half Pant tales, and the Full Pant tales, each dealing with a different period of the author's life in Shimoga. This book brought smiles, and in some place, happy grins at the innocence of youth in a place that was far removed from the pollution of urban culture, making the experiences endearing in many 'stories'.

The thing that attracted me the most about the independent stories was the unique titles that showed the world from the perspective of a kid wearing a half pant. There was a raw, direct feel to the stories that is usually missing in the doctored tales that undergo heavy altering for publishing. The stories definitely won in the nostalgia department, bringing to the minds of the reader the life in a random Indian village in the 70s and 80s. The small introduction to Shimoga made the stories more relatable, already bringing in a Malgudi like feeling. The names' significance extend to the splitting of the tales into two sets, the age where kids wear half pants and then the age of full pants (from teenage onwards) which is technically a huge shift that made the boys into men. It is in little things like these that the book held my attention, bringing a sure smile.

The narration was on point, gently mixing humour with a raw bluntness. But since this was not the set of tales actually written during adoloscence, the language could have been a bit more refined. There were no major errors in the language and the simple language did make the reading easy. The words fit the tone of the stories well. There is no 'plot' but there are a lot of factors including the relevance to the time period (that the book is set in) that worked in its favour. As far as biographical tales go, this book was the perfect amalgamantion of interesting stories, easy language and unpretentious tone that made it a delight to read.

Half Pants Full Pants scores in the areas of narration, relevance and taking us back to the time it is set in. It would make all the readers relate to the stories, and bring out happy memories of being kids in those days before the distractions of internet, television and mobile phones that take up most of our time these days. The book was a breezy, heartwarming read, making sure it brought the nods, smiles and the laughs at the right places. Even the vernacular bits in between that included the dialogues between the parents and the child did not look forced and helped in the nativity factor. The half pant tales were my most favorite part. The tone was set in the 5 paise chappathi and from there the book told me what to expect. And I was not disappointed with what it delivered.

The book can be read more than once, surely with favorites that can be read over and over again, never failing to bring a smile on our faces. The simplicity and the nativity are what worked in its favour. While it cannot be denied that the book is best enjoyed by someone who has actually lived in that time period, or has heard tales of it while growing up, the book still is an amazing read for anyone who would enjoy reading about life in small town India in the 70s and 80s before globalisation took over and made every village a similar fascimile of the same mould. The author has cleverly crafted the book to appeal to anyone who reads it, no matter their favorite genre. Having such an interesting childhood probably made this an amazing collection. Overall, a book I would remember for some time to come, not only for its brilliace, but for the escape it provided into the uncomplicated era and the nostalgia it brought to me. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The book achieved what it set out to do.
  • The titles (both of the stories and the book itself) were apt and fitting.
  • Scored well in the areas of nostalgia and unassuming humour.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The language could have been a bit more refined. It was simple, probably aimed at suiting the mood of the stories.
  • The cover picture could have had a bit more interesting, the stories had that potential.
  • Often, I forgot that the stories were biographical, with the Malgudi like tinge to them. Not a complaint, just an observation.
VERDICT:

Surely a book to read, remember and take back from. More than once.

RATING: 4/5

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE Free on Kindle Unlimited, Rs. 177 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Monday, July 10, 2017

Appointment with ISIL by Joe Giordano : A Review




Book Details:

Book Title: Appointment with ISIL: An Anthony Provati Thriller
Authors: Joe Giordano
Category: Adult Fiction, 299 pages
Genre: Literary Thriller
Publisher: Harvard Square Editions
Release date: June 2017


Book Description:

This time, Anthony's libido threatens his life. He flirts with Russian mob boss, Gorgon Malakhov's mistress. The Russian deals in death. ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant, wants the product. Russian Intelligence supplies the means, and an art theft funds the scheme. ISIL's targets are chilling. The chase across the Mediterranean is on. Can Anthony thwart ISIL? Will he survive?

Review

Only very few books have the power to capture the readers' attention in the first few pages. Either the story or the narration or the events described would hook the reader to the book, making it impossible to put down. Appointments with ISIL is one such book. I did not have much of an opinion on it when I read the summary which was short and to the point. But the moment I read the first chapter (which was riveting) I realised this was one book to reckon.


In the current slew of 'heroes' who are not adorned with larger than life personas, Anthony is flawed, trying to escape the quagmire he had unwittingly got into and ends up breaking bad people's plots to pieces by his chance, wit and will. The first thing I noticed about the protagonist was - he was not the do gooder who wanted to save the world at any cost. This made him relatable and likeable 'despite' his faults. The second thing I noticed was the Bond-esque flirtation, something that knocked off points in my mind and also got him into trouble.


Appointments with ISIL was a book with a tight plot, all the stories and branches fitting together seamlessly. I loved many characters, even those who appeared minimally. The characters stood in my memory, and did not seem forced or fitted in unnecessarily. The story was fast paced, and I did not want to put the book down. The pages were turned effortlessly. I felt the narration reaching out to bridge the story perfectly. The language was never sugar coated and this was a special feature of the book which made sure the horror of the events described stayed in my mind.


The quickly changing scenes, starting from the US to Iraq and then on to the involvement of Russian mob elements, only increased my interest to keep reading. Even the protagonist who let his libido dictate his sense of reasoning (and usually) got into trouble became an interesting character that I would want to read about in more books. Overall, Appointments with ISIL was a book I loved reading for its quick pace and interesting story line.

Praise for Appointment with ISIL:

"A roller-coaster ride to the finish, this book confirms Giordano as a writer to eagerly watch."

"A sexy, all-in-one-breath read, this is a story for those eager to strap on their boots and immerse themselves in a whirlwind adventure that will take them from espresso in New York with the Italian Mafia to walking the Old City of Jerusalem with the chief of Israel’s security service."

If you like gritty intriguing thrillers involving the FBI, Russian/Italian mobs or Islamic Terrorists you will absolutely love this book…. The characters, the plot and prose come together for an outstanding work of contemporary Americana. PRIMO highly recommends Appointment with ISIL."


Buy the Book: 




Meet the Author:



Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas.

Joe's stories have appeared in more than ninety magazines including The Monarch Review, The Saturday Evening Post, decomP, The Summerset Review, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller will be published by HSE in June 2017.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest


BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE:

June 19 - Library of Clean Reads - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
June 19 - Working Mommy Journal - review / giveaway
June 20 - Essentially Italian - review / giveaway
June 21 - Bound 4 Escape - review / giveaway
June 21 - Olio by Marilyn - review / author interview / giveaway
June 22 - Books, Dreams, Life - review / giveaway
June 23 - Readers' Muse - review / giveaway
June 26 - A Mama's Corner of the World - review / giveaway
June 26 - Cassidy's Bookshelves - review
June 26 - SimpliRead - review / giveaway
June 27 - Il Mio Tesoro - review
June 28 - Cheryl's Book Nook - review / giveaway
June 29 - My Reading Journeys - review / giveaway
June 29 - Writer with Wanderlust - on Goodreads - review
June 30 - Leels Loves Books - review


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Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Inimitable Chaos of Life by Maliny Mohan : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Inimitable Chaos Of Life

AUTHOR: Maliny Mohan

ISBN/ASIN: 9789386305466

GENRE: Fiction / Short Stories

NUMBER OF PAGES: 192

FORMAT: Paperback

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: This was a gift from a friend.

SUMMARY:

A naive girl of eighteen is trapped in a dungeon, which changes her and her capturer’s life forever. Afar, tucked away in the sleepy terrains of a town in Kerala, a married woman is determined to revisit a forbidden part of her past. A model-turned-MBA aspirant is scourged mentally for a decision she almost made three years back. Back in the less happening village of Kanyapuram, an aspiring author loses a copy of her very first manuscript.

True to its title, ‘The Inimitable Chaos of life’ is an amalgamation of enthralling stories borrowed from the chaotic pages of life, which allure you to relive the multitude of unique emotions humans are made of.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

A short story collection is both easy and difficult to put together. It has to convey a lot in a few pages, and must have a theme or at least a common thread. When this book came to me, highly recommended, I first noticed the summary. It piqued my interest immediately. There was something about the title that drew me in. Life, by itself, is chaos. And if this book's summary is anything to go by, it dealt with all the different facets of chaos found in everyday life. The cover was simple and belied the content within. There was nothing chaotic about the minimalist design of the cover except inside the one letter.

I was eager to delve into the 'chaotic pages of life', because the summary told me it will make the stories relatable.

REVIEW:

The Inimitable Chaos of Life is easily one of the most well written anthologies I have seen in recent times. True to its summary, each of the 14 stories was focusing on the chaos that is life. One of the main reasons why this book worked is that it delivered what it promised in the summary. Each of the stories individually managed to hold my interest, and they drew out of the chaotic emotions each and every one of us must have faced at one point. People from different walks of life face different types of situations, and how they move or change our lives is what constitutes each story in this collection. No two are alike but they are all similar and have a common theme. There is a simple thread that binds all these stories together, and chaos is just that one word for the beautiful emotions captured as part of these stories.

The human mind is ruled with emotions, and often all of our decisions are in some way influenced by our emotions. What might sound rational at one point will seem completely bonkers at hindsight. The same workload will seem less while the mind is happy, while it will seem heavy and dragging when the mind is otherwise occupied. The theory of relativity works best with emotions that influence a huge part of our lives. The Inimitable Chaos of Life focuses on (thankfully) many different types of emotions and does not limit itself to the common ones. There is also a tangent that runs along each story, neatly ending with a simple but powerful message that is conveyed.

All the stories have a pleasing structure. There is the beginning, the concept. There is clarity, and the characters are very relatable and clearly defined. There is closure, even in the short space provided. The stories are not left hanging or abrupt. The concepts are not overdone, nor is there room for unnecessary speculation or confusion that might arise out of an ambiguous narrative. The strength of the book is its language, and the subtle art of putting the message across in the limited space given. Good language is always a pleasure to read and definitely a bonus for any book. The inimitable chaos of life scores in that area, and outshines its peers by a large margin.

The beauty of the book is in the subtlety of the emotions. The characters are impressive, some of them leaving a lasting impression on the readers' minds. The language is lucid, with some words adding to the readers' vocabulary. The writing style is straightforward, not resorting to anything more complex. The underlying concepts are brought forward with clarity and that is the USP of this book. The Inimitable Chaos of life is definitely a book that merits multiple readings, at least back to the favorite gems of the collection. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The smooth language, that deserves special credit.
  • The emotions portrayed were realistic and relatable.
  • The author's reason for choosing this title is amazing
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • For such an awesome collection, the cover seemed way too simple
  • The book's typeset was slightly difficult to read, with the font giving the eyes some strain during prolonged reading
  • It'd be helpful to have a dictionary handy. Though this isn't a negative in my opinion.
VERDICT:

A brilliant collection, definitely worth another read.

RATING: 4.5 /5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maliny Mohan is a doctor who resorts to appeasing her passion to write during her leisure times. She was born and brought up in Kerala, where she spent her summer days in the exhilirating company of her friends and luscious greenery. She has contributed to a short story anthology, titled 'Love and other enchantments', brought out by a group of five authors - The Fictitious Five and another titled ' Colors- Different shades of love'. An avid blogger and an ardent admirer of subtleties,her dream of becoming an author sprouted wings in the pages of her blog. A piscean by birth, she is passionate and strives hard to listen to her heart, every time it beats out of sync. Her tales mirror her eye for beauty in its varied forms, sometimes resplendent with the most vibrant of hues and at other times poignant, enriched with subdued shades of grey and black. Apart from being passionate about writing, she is also a trained dancer, lover of solitude, bibliophile, tea-lover and an amateur poet.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback

PRICERs. 190 for Paperback



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Thicker Than Water by Lexie Conyngham


BOOK TITLE: Thicker than Water

AUTHOR: Lexie Conyngham

ISBN/ASIN: B071XPGRZC

GENRE: Thriller / Period fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 288

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Murray of Letho, #10

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Debdatta Sahay of b00kr3vi3ws for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

When young Walter finds a dead body along with the dead fish in his tutor’s fishpond, he knows he should tell his old master, Charles Murray of Letho. The dead man leaves a pretty wife and child and a broken string quartet, but someone must have profited by his death – could it be the avenger from his past as his widow fears, or is it someone from closer at hand? St. Andrews is once again the setting for a murder mystery, and a puzzle that Murray must solve before the murderer strikes again.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

There are only two words in the summary that gave me a clue about this being a sequel or part of a series. Other than that 'once again', the summary is by itself interesting and has good detailing in a few short words. It was intriguing enough to make me want to pick the book up, especially since it belongs to my favorite genre. The cover was simple, and had nothing that jumped out. But it fit the mood well. I had no previous idea about the author or her writing style, this being the first book of hers that I would be reading. 

REVIEW:

It helps to have information beforehand about whether or not a book is part of a series. The rising confusion about the characters and their familiarity would remain unresolved if this detail is not known. The series books do not spend much time reintroducing the familiar characters, but for someone who tries to pick up the threads from the middle, this might create confusion that will hamper the reading speed. This is perhaps why this book looked like it began slowly, for me at least. The characters seemed to be quickly 'introduced' in the first few pages, with too many of them crowding the little space. I had to keep rereading to know who was who. A careful analysis was required to understand that they had all been introduced in some of the previous books and were as much a part of the series as the main character was. After that realisation, the reading speed picked up. The glossary and the characters list helped much in this regard. Special thanks for that.

The book can be read as a standalone and is a good thriller set in previous century. Be it in the language or the setting, once we grasp them the story flows smoothly. The story is pretty simple. A dead body is found in a pond by one of Murray's servants. The mystery has to be solved before further mishaps happen. Once I could keep the characters and their associations straight, the book flowed smoothly. The twists and turns kept coming at an even pace and I was able to enjoy the read though I had not read any books in this series previously. The twists weren't too surprising or too predictable. And the plot was tight and created enough interest to keep me going.

Murray as a 'detective' did not impress me much, but I am sure I would read a few more books of this series to follow his style in other cases. The language was not exactly what I'd call lucid or easy, mainly because the cross century references (which maybe authentic at that setting) but the plot was good. The supporting characters did not stand in my mind but the descriptions and development were on point. Overall this is a story I enjoyed reading. I only wish I'd known about this being the tenth book in a series before - that would have made my experience much better and reduced the 'complaints' I have with this. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • Enjoyed the story despite the slow beginning and the unconventional language
  • The decent twists and even pace made this an enjoyable read.
  • The summary was intriguing and the cover simplistic and to the point.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • If you are reading this as a standalone, it would be well to remember that this happens in a different era and has characters who've appeared before
  • The beginning is slow and might discourage a few readers
  • The language is confusing (but thanks to the glossary)
VERDICT:

Good read, overall. Began slowly but once the pace picked up, a decent thriller.

RATING: 3.75/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author of the Murray of Letho and Hippolyta Napier series of historical crime novels, Lexie lives in North-East Scotland and after some years of trying the traditional methods (with absolute and complete lack of success) she was persuaded to test her limited technical skills with e-books. When she isn't writing (that would be Sundays) she teaches, knits, gardens, drinks wine or whisky, and sits looking thoughtful while random facts wander around her head.

She can be followed, should such a thing appeal, 
on Pinterest (https://uk.pinterest.com/lexieconyngham/) 
or even Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Lexie-Conyng...).


EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle

PRICE $2.49 for Kindle

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Thursday, May 4, 2017

His Christmas Surprise by Summerita Rhayne : A Review


BOOK TITLE: His Christmas Surprise

AUTHOR: Summerita Rhayne

ISBN/ASIN: B06XS6XZ7J

GENRE: Fiction / Romance

NUMBER OF PAGES: 193

FORMAT: Digital

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Got the book from Amazon Kindle. Thanks to the author for the link on a timely note!

SUMMARY:

Christmas brought an unexpected sparkle.in his life 

Dan Tollinger is having a bad Christmas. He lost his wife to terminal illness and his boys are behaving badly. He's at his shopping center all day, how can he manage them when he can't find the time? Tonya needs premises to run her business after her bakery got damaged in a fire. With a son to bring up on her own, the sensible option is to accept Dan’s job offer to housekeep while putting her business back on the track. But will this job be so easy? Dan is brusque and to the point, while his boys don't listen at all! 

Then unexpectedly, she finds herself succumbing to her attraction to Dan. And it seems he's not immune either! 

Would it be wise to give in to desire and hope something more kindles between them?

Especially when his sons are not ready to accept her in his life. 

 Heart warming, family oriented romance with a bit of sensuality on the side.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

When the author pinged me for a review of this book, I was intrigued by the title. The cover picture looked generic and contributed to the mood of the story. The summary was short and to the point. It put forth all the major plot points that would need to be focused on. There was more promise in the phrase 'family oriented'. Romance has never been my favorite genre despite the fact that I enjoy well written romances occasionally. This book was a welcome break from a string of thrillers I was reading. 

REVIEW:

First things first. The book is surely an engaging read - I nearly finished it in one sitting. It was not a heavy read by any means but had its fair share of emotions. The story of Dan Tollinger, a recent widower who is having an altogether bad christmas after losing a wife and not being able to get emotionally closer to his kids, collides with that of Tonya Sanders, a widowed single mother of a son. A close friend gives her a business option - to work in her brother-in-law's house and for exchange get her bakery business on track. That is two birds in one stone and Tonya agrees reluctantly on her friend Myra's insistence. 

When she meets Dan, who is brusque to the point of being rude, she is unable to keep her relationship completely professional because of the surge of love she feels for him. He looks willing to reciprocate but neither of them want to complicate what they share professionally. But attraction holds primary, with the promise of a 'forever and after' being impossible because of Dan's emotional unavailability. What follows next forms the story. 

The book stays true to its genre. It is a romance book, and the overdose of intimacy was understandable. The sensual parts were a bit on the excessive side for my taste but they did not feel unnecessary or forced. The lead characters both failed to evoke any sort of sympathy from me because of different reasons. The story progressed quickly, with the emotions and the romance interwoven with various threads. The mind vs heart conflicts were brought out well. Even though Dan Tollinger was not one of my favorite protagonists (his treatment of every other character seemed unfair at a point before some sort of redemption happened), I could understand how the emotional distances are never because of one loss but a series of heavy hits since childhood. The book won brownie points by dealing with a serious issue and unraveling the underlying psychology of human behaviour. 

Tonya as a lead worked well for me in the way she faced her confused attraction and apprehensions. Even when she frustrated readers by being unable to refuse Dan's requests despite not breaking through the emotional wall he had erected, there was a poise in the way she carried herself in the later part of the book. The supporting characters including Jay and Myra did their roles perfectly. The character shift of the kids, though hurried, worked in bringing the book to a packaged climax. 

The book had enough twists to keep the readers engaged and the author has managed to tie up all the loose ends perfectly. The correlation between different events was beautifully done. There were a few glaring typos and subsequent grammar errors (not mentioning the parts where the characters are actually slurring - that was good) but they did not affect the reading experience much. Overall, a romance novel with a sensual overdose that could have done more with the various tangents it started off on. But the final product was an interesting read. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The story stayed true to the summary
  • No unnecessary drags or delays or drama.
  • Good supporting characters, no major character shift
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • Though the genre was romance, the book could have dealt with the issue of coping children a bit better
  • The climax seemed rushed and packaged
  • The protagonist Dan Tollinger did not evoke any sympathy despite being a bereaved man
VERDICT:

A well written romance novel bordering on the sensual, but with a family twist. Definitely an engaging read.

RATING: 3.5/5

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle

PRICE Rs. 110 for Kindle

BOOK LINKS: Amazon



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Fine Year for Murder by Lauren Carr : A Review


BOOK TITLE: A Fine Year for Murder

AUTHOR: Lauren Carr

ISBN/ASIN: B01M3X84DX

GENRE: Adult Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 430

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: A Thorny Rose mystery, Book 2

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

SUMMARY:

After months of marital bliss, Jessica Faraday and Murphy Thornton are still discovering and adjusting to their life together. Settled in their new home, everything appears to be perfect … except in the middle of the night when, in darkest shadows of her subconscious, a deep secret from Jessica’s past creeps to the surface to make her strike out at Murphy.

When investigative journalist Dallas Walker tells the couple about her latest case, known as the Pine Bridge Massacre, they realize Jessica may have witnessed the murder of a family living near a winery owned by distant relatives she was visiting and suppressed the memory.

Determined to uncover the truth and find justice for the murder victims, Jessica and Murphy return to the scene of the crime with Dallas Walker, a spunky bull-headed Texan. Can this family reunion bring closure for a community touched by tragedy or will this prickly get-together bring an end to the Thorny Rose couple?

FIRST IMPRESSION:

I have read many books of Lauren Carr, and am familiar with her writing style and characters. When this book came as a review copy, I picked it up immediately because I am a fan of the writing and the series. The summary was promising, hinting at something more than the normal mysteries I was used to. I have noticed a different angle to all of Lauren's stories thus far, and this one seemed to have a deeper plot element too. The convergence of two different plot angles by a common person / thread seemed an exciting thing to look forward to. The cover lacked any features that would attract me, and I mention it in passing because I have previous experience with the author's writing and a cover would not be a deciding factor.


REVIEW:

The story captured my attention immediately. There is no other word for it. I had read some of Carr's previous works and loved them, and this is not an exception. Lauren Carr begins with the story of a marriage being disrupted by a strange behaviour. Jessica Faraday has demons in her subconscious that force her to behave abnormally when she rests her active mind at night. After a few instances of bearing through the random hits, Murphy wants to get to the bottom of it. Along comes the news of a baffling mystery that may answer their persisting questions about what troubles Jessica so much.

Both the story and the backstory are gripping. They are clearly written to engage the readers into the story and they do it perfectly. The book unravels quickly, getting directly into the plot without much of a description. On one side we see Jessica with a serious problem she cannot define or identify and the problem that might make her marriage sour. The helplessness and the subconscious hurt is captured well. On the other side we see a random case that might answer more than one persisting question, though not evident at first. Jessica as a character gained my respect in this book because of the way she was portrayed. More than the troubles she is in, how she faced them made me like her more.

The characterisation is the book's major plus. The emotions and the writing have been portrayed well too, and it is with some amount of regret that I finished this wonderful book. I wanted more of it, and that goes to say how gripping the plot and the execution were. There is nothing to say about the writing that I have not said already - Lauren Carr's writing is visual without being descriptive, witty without resorting to crude elements, and incredibly enjoyable in the humour angle even if the main picture is a thriller. Her characters stand in the readers' mind long after the book is finished and this I think is the success of the book and the writer.

Overall, the book is a page turner. Be it in dealing with how emotional trauma at a early age can affect someone even after they have grown up, and how sometimes not everything is what it seems, Lauren Carr merges amazing plot elements and weaves them into a story so fine that I barely put it down or read another book in parallel. Definitely a book to reckon.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The story and the setting were both my favorites. I have no major complaints.
  • The book is a page turner from start to finish. There was never a dull moment.
  • I loved the characterisation and the identification of the root causes of seemingly superficial troubles.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The humor element (which is a trademark of the author) takes away the seriousness in some situations.
  • The cover could have been slightly better.
VERDICT:

Completely loved it! Yet another good one from Carr.

RATING: 4.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE $1.01 for Kindle, $17 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Little Prince

AUTHOR: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

ISBN/ASIN: B01M3Z5WD0

GENRE: Fiction / Moral Allegory

NUMBER OF PAGES: 96

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone



SUMMARY:

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

This book came to me highly recommended and I loved the summary. I have never had much patience with allegories and have not had much experience with them. I prefer to have an actual story in the book that made me reflect and think, instead of a series of well-phrased words that were directed at eliciting an inner epiphany about everything in life. With this thought in mind, I took this book up, because it came backed with a great recommendation.

The cover and the summary looked promising enough and I was immediately drawn to the book because of its heavy credentials. There was one particular line in the summary that caught my attention. 'learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters', or, as I would call it, a normal human day in my language when I am expected to socialise.

REVIEW:

The mark of a good bookworm is to praise the classics, often taking the safe route that everyone else had already done. It is far easier to praise the book and 'love' all the things it is supposed to mean, all those profound meanings and life lessons that one is supposed to have while reading. It makes much more sense to wait for the meaning of it all to sink in and enlighten the mind with a sudden bright light than to accept that the book didn't quite strike the chord. Because, to refuse a classic's impact would mean that the reader has not quite developed the taste yet, or worse, has not understood the deeper meaning and has perused the book only on it surface level, which is often considered a capital crime.

But in some cases, there are simple instances where the reader could have read the book, understood the allegory, loved the quotes and scenarios but still not be totally, unshakeably impressed by the complete product. This book is one such. The Little Prince was written during the second World War by a war pilot whose profession and the yearning have both been infused into his work. The book is a series of allegorical words and uses the story of a little prince who comes from another planet to meet the narrator, a pilot who is stranded in the Sahara Desert. Throughout the book, the narrator talks with the little prince and hears of his fascinating encounters from other planets he has visited. He has seen a King, a vain man, a geographer, a lamplighter and other such people who give him the idea that humans are weird.

The pilot befriends The Little Prince who relates all the tales. The narrator listens in awe as he tries to repair his plane so he could return home. Each tale the prince tells has a hidden lesson about human emotions and how we think simple issues as matters of consequence and forget to stop and smell the roses. Be it in the Rose, the Fox, the Snake or the three-petaled flower, every object that the prince sees teaches him something about life, something that he would reflect upon. The book was obviously meant to be something that little kids would enjoy as fantasy and older people would consider as something deep and profound, mainly because the words were so.

The style would probably have worked for me if I were a bit more attuned to this genre. This book has a strange distinction of being something I loved very much in bits and felt ambivalent towards as a whole. It was not because I did not understand the underlying allegory or confused about what the Rose, Fox and Snake actually meant. But the book tested my patience because there was nothing else. It was a series of encounters, each of which had a lot of lessons to take back and ponder upon. It was a series of stereotypes so kids will understand how a Businessman or a King or a conceited person would behave. But it did not work for me because there was nothing more to it. My appreciation of this classic extends to the beautiful quotes it had, quotes I will remember for a long time to come, some of them so beautifully worded that I will remember them by heart in the twilight hours of reflection.

The quotes were part of a narrative that did not hold anything else of interest for me. I understood the concept of allegories and I understood what it meant to have a base of a story to get a message across. The author's urgency in spreading the message of love and human compassion is very evident, especially seeing as the book was written during a trying time. But the more I read, and the more I loved the individual sentences and phrases, something about the whole package failed to make the cut for me. But I shall remember this book for a long time to come, in parts and as a whole because it was achingly beautiful for me, and some quotes hit right home. I will read it over and over again because some parts of it mean so much to me and were written with such profound sense that I would need to read this book when I want to reflect on something deep.

The translation (as this book is) has probably captured the essence of the original in a great way because the individual words and sentences are great. But somehow, there is nothing about the book as a whole or a premise it took to explain the different situations in life excited me. This book is a great classic, and I respect the things it tried to convey. I understand the beauty of the allegory and I am fascinated about how it took me back to my childhood but this did not work for me as a whole. I will, however, read it in bits again, revisit the pages where I have highlighted some beautiful lines that I need to read when times are testing. The overall package left me wanting and this book is a curious package that made me reconsider my tastes as a bookworm. I also wondered about expectations and mental conditioning, not quite the effect I expected to get from a mere children's' book, as I should no longer call this. 

MY FAVORITE QUOTES

On friends, (this is my most favorite quote, because a friend sent it to me, and I love it all the more because of it)

When you tell them [grownups] that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?" Instead, they demand: "How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?" Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

On comforting someone who is sad

It is such a secret place, the land of tears.

On authority

Accepted authority rests first of all on reason.

On judging oneself

"It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom."

This conversation of a businessman and The Little Prince

"And what good does it do you to own the stars?"
"It does me the good of making me rich."
"And what good does it do you to be rich?"
"It makes it possible for me to buy more stars, if any are discovered."

On ownership of material things

"When you find a diamond that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you discover an island that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you get an idea before any one else, you take out a patent on it: it is yours. So with me: I own the stars, because nobody else before me ever thought of owning them."

The most famous quote from the book, and my personal favorite

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

On showing how things become special based on circumstances

It [water] was as sweet as some special festival treat. This water was indeed a different thing from ordinary nourishment. Its sweetness was born of the walk under the stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a present. When I was a little boy, the lights of the Christmas tree, the music of the Midnight Mass, the tenderness of smiling faces, used to make up, so, the radiance of the gifts I received.

On hiding behind masks, in reality

I was sad, but I told them: "I am tired."

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The illustrations were perfect and warmed my heart.
  • The words are individual gems and together give me some beautiful quotes I will not forget in a hurry
  • The allegory and the message came through clearly and for that, I love the book
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • It did not work for me as a package, as a whole book.
  • The story could have worked in any other setting, with any other characters and that is not how I expected this praised classic to be.
  • The book did not live up to the expectations I had of it, despite giving me something to ponder about and take back.
VERDICT:

A book I will read and revisit in parts many times over for its deep beauty in language

RATING: 3.5/5



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY, the "Winged Poet," was born in Lyon, France, in 1900. A pilot at twenty-six, he was a pioneer of commercial aviation and flew in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. His writings include The Little Prince, Wind, Sand and Stars, Night Flight, Southern Mail, and Airman's Odyssey. In 1944, while flying a reconnaissance mission for his French air squadron, he disappeared over the Mediterranean

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover

PRICE $0.48 for Kindle, $5.99 for Paperback, $13.28 for Hardcover

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Serving Crazy with Curry by Amulya Malladi : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Serving Crazy with Curry

AUTHOR: Amulya Malladi

ISBN/ASIN: B00UEG4TZC

GENRE: Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 256

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone



SUMMARY:

Devi is unemployed and unmarried, with more secrets than she knows what to do with. She knows she will never live up to the example her elder sister has set as not only a traditional Indian wife but also a successful businesswoman. Having lost both her job and a baby, Devi views her life as a failure. With nothing left to lose, she tries to take her own life. 

Fate, however, has different plans for her. 

Devi’s mother Saroj stops by Devi’s apartment and lets herself in with her spare key, thinking Devi is at work…only to find her daughter lying unconscious in the bathtub. Devi is devastated to discover her life has been saved - not only can she add suicide to her list of failings, but she isn’t sure what she’s been saved for. 

Forced to move back in with her parents, she stops speaking, and instead begins to express herself through cooking. Her mother, who has never cooked anything but traditional Indian food in her life, is astounded by Devi’s sudden surge of culinary interest; her wild, crazy concoctions, though far from the meals Saroj is used to preparing, draw the family back to the table again and again. As Devi’s refusal to speak continues, her family begin instead to talk to each other, about their own relationships and their own failings. 

And in the wake of Devi’s silence, secrets are revealed that will rock the family to its core…

FIRST IMPRESSION:

I had already read one book by the author and I loved it completely that I will recommned it to any new readers who love this genre or even want to try a decent book in IWE. I loved the simplicity of the characters and situations in The Mango Season and the nativity it brought to the fore of my mind. So it was with a good level of expectation that I opened this book to read. I had been putting it off for some time until a request I could not ignore came my way and made me read it at a stretch. Another book I started and finished in a day.

The cover and the summary are simple. But I was not really looking at them because the reading recommendation came from a fellow bookworm whose opinions I value very much.

REVIEW:

This is the kind of book that either works for you, or does not. The story is simple. It is focused on an Indian Family living in California, and how the parents went to the land of opportunities during the technical boom and the father succeeded at a start up, becoming rich when the wind blew. The protagonist of the story, Devi, is the main focus but the book also gives importance to every other character too. The book begins with Devi's attempted suicide, and how things branch out from there. The story follows the graph of Devi's life from the attempted suicide and the corresponding recovery. What happens to the future of the woman who has barely escaped death? Does life go back to normal? Does everything fall into routine? Or is that scar forever there?

Serving Crazy with Curry is one of the most fitting titles I have ever seen for novels in recent times. The protagonist is supposed to be Devi, who faces a life changing moment after a stream of failures and decides to end her life, only to fail in that too and be saved by her mother. But every character has equal weightage in the narrative and they each hold a pivotal role, twisting the tale in different directions so much that the reader is kept glued, fascinated by the play of emotions between each of the characters and how different they are with different people. The Veturi household is the perfect family from the outside, with a seemingly happy, successful couple having two daughters, one married to the perfect gentleman and the VP of a company at a very young age and the other trying to make it big in start-ups. There is the elderly grandmother, a military doctor who completes the picture of perfection.

To anyone interested in psychology, this book would be a treat to read, mainly to understand what drove the pampered daughter to suicide and how she recovered (or otherwise) from it. The book worked for me in many ways because of its lucid writing, and also because it was a deeply moving book once I applied some thought to it. It managed to convey the heavier emotions amidst lighthearted family banter and showed the different facets of people and how they reacted under pressure and otherwise. The narrative brought home a lot of points and was, in some ways, very relatable. It showed the power of a family support system and how certain values and prejudices never leave people based on where they were originally from.

All the emotions were bittersweet, the relationships on tenterhooks and the characters are always hiding in depth emotions while managing to keep it together on the surface. The book posed as many questions as it answered initially and by the time it ended, I had actually answered most of the questions myself. There were many interesting instances for me to ponder about. Why did the outwardly very successful Shoba resent Devi for having the courage to think about suicide? What moved the resolute and strong grandmother to tears? What had driven the wedge between the different married couples in the story? Do they burn the bridge or reconstruct it? Are all marriages happy? Do people survive in unhappy marriages to seem like they have the perfect life?

The story answered all this and more, giving me one twist after the other (most of them predictable but exceedingly well placed). The beauty of the twists in the novel is that they were placed in the right places, revealed via very insignificant events that have catastrophic consequences. The book kept me glued to my seat and until I kept turning the pages back even after I'd finished. I specially loved the author's convo with her characters that answered the few questions I had left. Serving Crazy with Curry is relatable because no one is a hero. Be it the strong grandmother Vasu or the soft spoken father Avi, every character had their own bunch of regrets and love lost and found amidst the folds of time. The regrets and the remorse have been beautifully expressed with words that struck a chord.

The characters won me over because they were relatable, and seemed like people I could come across in life. They are each spiteful, with barely sustained anger, and resentment boiling deep in their minds that they could not overcome. But over the course of the book, there are many epiphanys that change the way I viewed each character. Whether they reacted 'in character' or totally 'out of character', they were relatable because they were not 'perfect literary' heroes but were falteringly human. The story worked because it did not have the perfect 'All is well' ending that I was afraid it was going to have. The bittersweet note in the climax is how life is. No matter what happens, it goes on. For the first time in many years, I could not pick on my favorite quote or favorite character from the book despite loving it so much. Because every line made me want to think, to reflect and to analyse the vagaries that human emotions cause. The book was a treat in that sense, showing me that outward appearances and inner personalities don't match, ever, and even that is okay to an extent.

Overall, the language is simple, and the vernacular terms easy to understand, though I prefer a glossary had been added in the end for those who cannot quite get it. The book had its ups and downs and was not always the best. But just because it kept me hooked enough to finish in a single day, I give it special consideration. The editing could have been a bit better, tightening the slackening pace and reducing some descriptions. I could not quite sympathise with the protagonist but because every character made an impression in their way, this need not even be mentioned. Serving Crazy with Curry is a book I will read many times over, in parts and in whole because it has an idyllic beauty to it that has attracted me to it. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The titling of each chapter that made me wonder what was coming. Special touch by the author.
  • The placement of the twists that sustained my interest in the story even though I could guess most of them.
  • The recipes in the story, that were not actually just recipes but also infused with emotions and thoughts.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • For such a good story, neither the summary nor the cover fit quite right.
  • The story has uneven pacing and it takes some time for the reader to get into the narrative after wading through the words that seemed to go round about, like thoughts churning in a confused mind.
  • There was a lull in the story at places where I felt absolutely no emotion towards any of the character except exasperated confusion but the book was worth it.
VERDICT:

The book shall be revisited again and again, and read afresh every time, despite its obvious flaws.

RATING: 4.3/5



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amulya Malladi is the author of six novels, including The Sound of Language and The Mango Season. Her books have been translated into several languages, including Dutch, German, Spanish, Danish, Romanian, Serbian, and Tamil. She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in journalism. When she’s not writing, she works as a marketing executive for a global medical device company. She lives in Copenhagen with her husband and two children. Connect with Amulya at www.amulyamalladi.com.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle and Paperback

PRICE Rs.199 for Kindle, Rs. 992.76 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon