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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: The Great Mogul by Rajeev Jacob

 

 
Book: The Great Mogul

Author: Rajeev Jacob

No. of Pages: 222

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Lancer Book

 

The author wrote to me with the book review request and the setting of the story – 2 young scholars from UK (in current times) searching for the biggest diamond of the world, last heard of in eighteenth century India – seemed like an interesting one. I accepted.
Before accepting, I tried looking at the GoodReads page but there was none. So i created it when I finally started reading the book.

My reaction to the first chapter of the book was: “Did I make a mistake in accepting the review request. Will I be subjected to crude writing and unmentionables in this book?”

My biggest fear was that I would be forced to abandon the book if the writing style of the first chapter (hardly a few pages) continued through the rest of the book. Thankfully it did not. (Although, I still don’t understand why the author had to write the first chapter they way he did – he surely lost a 0.5 from the rating I am giving this book – solely because of that first chapter and similar language and references used in later chapters)

Anyway, the book started taking shape from the second chapter onwards and you begin your journey, both, in the 21st and in the 18th century with 2 different sets of characters. The book has a very interesting cast of characters and the author has done a decent job of connecting the reader to the main characters. The story moves at a steady pace and keeps the reader engaged.

I was somewhere expecting the parallel stories to connect; events happening in one story answering questions in the other etc but it did not really happen that way. The two stories ran in parallel with very little connection between them except for the basic few questions.

In fact, after reading the whole book, I really wondered if the story of the present tense was even required. The author could have simply written the historical fiction piece and kept it just that. It is not as if the current timeline story is on an exciting treasure hunt for the Great Mogul and those 2 young scholars are anywhere close to locating it.

While the story moves in 2 parallel tracks, an interesting device has been utilized by Rajeev Jacob – telling the events from different perspectives. The same event / situation being described in third person and then followed up by the first person narration by one or even two characters. I have a soft spot for this kind of a device and enjoy reading it. The author made good use of it although I was disappointed at times. In such a device, one has to be careful and bring out something different in each narration. You can’t just repeat the same things and bore your reader …

While I did not like the writing style of the first chapter (which appears in several other chapters too – especially those reflecting Bhaichand’s thoughts) … there is a certain ‘raw’ effect to it - unadulterated raw thoughts of a person from the lower sanctums of the society. I did not like it but I am sure there is certain merit to the way those particular chapters have been written.

Finally, the climax was abrupt and unsatisfying. Wish there was more or at least a better twist.
Barring a couple of grammatical mistakes, overall the book's language was OK. The mistakes, I guess should have been been cleared and removed by the Editor/Publisher.

The book cover design was pretty unimaginative. Guess they did not spend too much time on it. But, on the other hand, while most novels get printed in paper-backs ... this one turned out to be hard-bound.

For me, this book was a mixed bag. It was decent book with a very interesting storyline and narration but as an author there is much more ground to be covered by Jacob. He is not there yet but I would certainly read his other works.

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 2.0 / 5

Writing Style: 2.5 / 5

Characters:     3.5 / 5

Story / Plot:     3.0 / 5

Climax:            2.0 / 5

Overall:           2.5 / 5 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: Sirens Spell Danger by Suresh Chandrasekaran, Karthik L & Radha Sawana


This was the book cover in 2015. A new book cover was released in 2015 so here is the update.
 
 

Book: Sirens Spell Danger

Author: Suresh Chandrasekaran, Karthik L and Radha Sawana

No. of Pages: 211

Genre: Fiction - Thriller

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc

 

One of the 3 author’s wrote to me with a book review request and I took it up instantly drawn partly by the genre, partly by the title and the book cover and partly by the fact that he was a fellow blogger who was getting his book published.

So the 3 bloggers - Suresh Chandrasekaran, Karthik L & Radha Sawana – come together and write 3 very different novellas with some common elements like sirens (gorgeous girls) and of course,  a lot of danger (though of different kinds) and suspense with ever twisting plots.  

All the 3 Novellas ... are complete, independent and different in their own ways. Each of the 3 novellas are simply unputdownables - the kind of twists they have is simply mind-blowing.

What is common between the three blogger-authors is their flare of story-telling and gripping the reader. It feels like the book is gripping the reader and not letting go. I would love to read more from the 3 authors ... shorts stories and novellas ... they should write more ... and they should do it soon :)

Let me write something about each novella …

Femme Fatale by Suresh Chandrasekaran who blogs at jambudweepam.blogspot.com

Femme Fatale is my personal favorite from the book, simply because it has all the elements to convert it into a nice hour long movie / short-film – romance, action, humour, victimized-hero, spies, bombings, national security and so on and so forth. There is no unnatural heroism in the story. Our ordinary protagonist falls into a trap of terrorists (being mistaken as a spy by them) because of a gorgeous woman and is then pulled into the cat-n-mouse game of intelligence forces and terrorists. The story goes thro several ups and downs and the reader is left guessing at whether certain characters are on the right side or wrong … as situations and events reveal different shades and intentions of people including new players. The best part of this novella (unlike the others) is the sheer balance of humor and adventure – both interwoven into each other with finesse. A thriller at its best - Loved it. Rating 5/5 

Bella Dona by Radha Sawana who blogs at blog.radhasawana.in

Bella Dona brings to the readers a cast of inspector and other assisting teams struggling with murders which are giving them the signs of a serial killer on the prowl who leaves a calling card behind with a different animal picture every time. The police inspector not only has to struggle with clues at the crime scene and how the murdered victims are linked to each other but also with the interpretation of the animal pictures on the calling cards and their connection. As a reader, you discover the story linking the victims and almost zero in on the murderer only to be surprised in the climax. The climax stops you in the tracks and leaves you speechless. Rating 4.5/5

Bellary by Karthik L who blogs at luciferhouseinc.blogspot.com

This was the weird one. Bellary has elements of paranormal and although it started out with promise with a secret service agent getting lured by gorgeous girls; the paranormal climax kind of dipped the mood a bit (for me). I personally liked the interplay of the protagonist with the 2 gorgeous female leads of the story and the way the author keeps the readers guessing as to which one of them is good and which is the vamp or both are vamp. If not for the paranormal angle, it would definitely have got a rating 5 from me. Rating 4/5

Overall, ‘Sirens Spell Danger’ is a very interesting collection of 3 novellas … something I have enjoyed reading (finished it off within 2 days – could have finished it off in single sitting if not for reading it during week-days). I would readily recommend it to anyone interested in ready racy-n-pacy thrillers. I really wish someone would adapt these for the TV … 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.5 / 5

Writing Style: 4.5 / 5

Characters:     4.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     4.5 / 5

Climax:            4.5 / 5

Overall:           4.0 / 5 

 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Book Review: The Girl with No Name by Iscah


 

Book: The Girl with No Name  

Author: Iscah

No. of Pages: 125

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Amoeba Ink  

 

The author had posted about this novella on the linked-in forum and I volunteered. This one turned out to be a very interesting one indeed ...

The story is about a girl whose parents were unable to name her (both died before naming her) and hence she remains without a name. She lives with an old man who takes care of her and protects her from the 'normal' world.
She is after all a shape-shifter by birth and can transform into any living or non-living thing … that is to say she can take the shape and form of any person .. or simply convert into a pot or a pan. That makes her different and a subject of ridicule by the other 'normal' people.  
The novella is about her journey - in search for her father, her roots and herself.

Through the story, Iscah gives a worldly view to the young readers. The plot and story are pretty ordinary and not very remarkable; but the journey is indeed something I would ask the young ones to read.

Iscah shows the value of knowledge and earning your living. Even a magician or sorceress needs to earn her living while she could easily do magic and live off comfortably.

Iscah also explains, through a character in the story, the 'role' and 'job' of the king ... almost making it sound like the role of a Manager ... to ensure that the right person is allocated the right job.

Iscah also shows the readers that different cultures value different things and we humans have to adapt to changing times and places and people!!

Another very interesting moment for the reader is when you suddenly realize that the shape-shifters in their ever changing form may actually forget their original form all-together. Every time they change into another person, they might retain something of that person which they like. Over a period of time, they may not be able to take their original form. Irony !

The story has a pretty anti-climactic end which takes some time to sink in. You realize that there is some sense to it and get yet another perspective to the life of people with special powers.

It was nice to see an author 'educating' the reader in the process of entertaining … and doing that in a very subtle manner. Few authors are able to do that.

Definitely something I would recommend people to read. And i also look forward to reading the others stories by Iscah as well as her novel .I am sure I am very much going to enjoy her writing.

Last but not the least; the cover design does seem sort of strange; almost as if it was hand-drawn by a not-so-good artist. But as you absorb the story and think about it, you smile at the irony of the shape-shifters and feel that the hand-drawn cover indeed reflects them.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.0 / 5

Writing Style: 4.0 / 5

Characters:     3.5 / 5

Story / Plot:    3.5 / 5

Climax:             3.5 / 5

Overall:            3.5 / 5 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

January Reading

 

Started off the month with 2 short stories by Normal Lippert (who has written the novel series on James Potter, son of Harry Potter) followed by another sci-fi short collection by Asimov and finishing off the month with short stories from Hitchcock series books. With these stories, I completed the book “Shadow of Silence”. 

I read 2 novels, 2 short novels, 1 short-story collection and 1 non-fiction for the month.

 

1.         Short: Merlin’s Gift – A Founders Christmas Story by Norman Lippert

2.         Short: Harry’s First Christmas by Norman Lippert

3.         Non-Fiction: LifeMantras by a Life Coach by Preeti Subberwal

4.         Asimov Shorts: I Just Make Them Up, See? by Isaac Asimov

5.         Asimov Shorts: Rejection Slips by Isaac Asimov

6.         Novel: The Treasure of Kafur by Aroon Raman

7.         Asimov Shorts: The Feeling of Power by Isaac Asimov

8.         Asimov Shorts: I’m in Marsport Without Hilda by Isaac Asimov

9.         Short Story Collection: Adhuri Prem Kahaniya by Santosh Avvannavar

10.       Asimov Novelette: Profession by Isaac Asimov

11.       Short Story (illustrated): The Naughty Boy Who Saved Christmas by Du Kirpalani

12.       Short Novel: Spellweaver by Claire Bridgeman

13.       Hitchcock - Shadow of Silence: The Adventure of the Red Leech by August Derleth

14.       Hitchcock - Shadow of Silence: Delay en Route by Dick Ellis

15.       Short Novel: SeaBEAN by Sarah Holding

16.       Hitchcock - Shadow of Silence: Process of Elimination by Max Van Derveer

17.       Hitchcock - Shadow of Silence: Plan 19 by Jack Ritchie

18.       Short Novel: Desert Son by Glenn Maynard

19.       Hitchcock - Shadow of Silence: The Method by Donald E Westlake

20.       Hitchcock - Shadow of Silence: Never Marry a Witch by C B Gilford