Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: The Trembling Fist by Lance Manion


Book: The Trembling Fist

Author: Lance Manion

No. of Pages: 184

Genre: Ault Humor, Fiction, Short Story Collection

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


The author wrote to me describing his latest short story collection (this one is his 5th) as belonging to a adult humor genre. I don’t really remember reading anything like that so I chose to pick this one up.  The book has 69 very short stories spread across 180 pages with a very simple cover design – nothing remarkable about it.

The first story itself is a pretty weird one. Written in a conversational style, it is as if the author is actually telling you the story face to face … and keeps commenting and deviating from the story-telling based on your expressions and comments/feedback. The story was action packed and anti-climactic. Interesting read. And also the longest story of the book. The rest of the book is packed with 2 page stories (a little more or less).

The stories are at best: WEIRD

The author has a weird writing style and even weirder thought process about things which is reflected in the stories / essays.

There are times when the author, ‘seemingly unintentionally’ gives you food for thought (rest assured; it was completely intentional’. And on the other hand, there are plenty of stories where the message is so ‘subtle’ that you completely miss the point wondering what the hell did you just read. Why the hell did the author write that piece of nonsense?

I have gone through that so many times ... believe me I can actually count it since I made a list of the titles of all 69 stories and was noting my comments as well as rating for each story … and while I gave 3 and 4 rating to some stories, a large number got 2 and even 1. I am sure I missed the point the author made … or maybe the author was just having some fun inserting some non-sense stories in between intelligent ones … just to have a good laugh at all the readers. 

The stories were described as ‘adult humor’ and one might be forgiven to think of them as erotic. No – not really. They are not erotic. They are just not for children. They are for a matured audience. Well … I can’t explain it. Just keep it away from children.

The ‘stories’ are not really stories but sort of commentaries … it almost felt like reading a blog where the author posts his opinion on things as varied as colors in a color palette (literally all sorts of things)

I am not sure how I would recommend this book to anyone. As much as there is some really interesting stuff packed in there, there is a lot of non-sense too (or to be fair to the author, lets say, stuff that did not make sense to me). And it requires a different kind of person to be able to digest the stuff written by Lance Manion ... so I end up giving it an average rating. Not too bad, not to great – take it up at your own risk and don’t blame me or the author for your time spent on the book.


Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 2.0 / 5

Writing Style: 3.5 / 5

Characters:     2.5 / 5

Story / Plot:     2.5 / 5

Climax:            2.0 / 5

Overall:           3.0 / 5   

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Review: A Cupful of Aha by Anandaa


Book: A Cupful of Aha

Author: Anandaa

No. of Pages: 54

Genre: Fiction, Philosophical  

Publisher: Become Shakespheare   


An extremely interesting premise of a guy meeting death – who instead of being a moustached heavy-set guy on the bull … turns out to be beautiful lady; and the after-death experience, is not at all what the man expected it to be.

The book is philosophical … about how people live their lives and how the things people give importance to, are pretty much meaningless.

I liked the writing style of the author and the way the two characters were portrayed, the touch of humor and the discovery of the ultimate truth over a series of assumptions.

It could have been a fantastic philosophical treatise … but it did not manage to reach there. It turned out to be pretty confused piece – frankly, at the end of the novella, I wasn’t quite sure what was the ultimate message from the book. There are times when the book makes you think but the questions it raises are not really impactful.

All the while I reading the book, I was reminded of the book ‘God’s Debris’ by Scott Adams – it was a super awesome book which makes you think… really think … by raising some seriously hard hitting questions. You have to literally stop reading and keep the book aside – to think about what just happened in the book, wondering how the book is destroying the basic assumptions of life and philosophy. Sadly, ‘Cupful of Aha’ was not even 10% thought provoking as ‘God’s Debris’ …

I am sure there will be readers who would like ‘Cupful of Aha’ and for them ‘God’s Debris’ would be the next step. In fact, I would even recommend that the author also read ‘God’s Debris’ …  This will give the author a better perspective and hope the next book has more gray-matter scratching content packed in it. And who knows, Anandaa may chose to loose anonymity and reveal the true identity.

Before I close, I would like to mention that I did like the format of the book – it’s actually a very thin and tiny pocket-book size (almost kinda cute) – as well as the cover design – a steamy cup of coffee with a smiley on top and the steam rising in the shape of the person. Nice artwork I would say. Good work Mayur Garud.   


Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.5 / 5

Writing Style: 3.0 / 5

Characters:     3.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     1.0 / 5

Climax:            1.0 / 5

Overall:           2.0 / 5 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: The Hunt for Kohinoor by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar


Book: The Hunt for Kohinoor

Author: Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

No. of Pages: 402

Genre: Fiction, thriller

Publisher: Westland Publishing 


I had written last month in my review of the Taj Conspiracy that the author got my attention in the first few pages. She does it again in the Hunt for Kohinoor. It has an explosive start (literally) which makes you wonder what direction the novel will take.

The novel has several aspects which hold the reader – the under-current of a daughter meeting her father who was considered dead for many years and on the other side the father has recovered from a partial memory loss. The father being held captive so that the daughter can do some spy-work ... something for which she is neither trained nor does she have the skills. The story is about love and friendship, loyalty and patriotism, action and adventure, India-Pak-Afghanistan-US political and military as well as spies.

There are many characters in the story and you begin to identify with each one of them. Each one manages to create their own space in spite of their ‘guest appearances’. Manreet has done justice to the character development of the key actors in the story and at some point in time while reading the story; you may begin to understand the character so well that you may begin to cast Bollywood/Hollywood actors into the roles.

I have always loved the inner conflicts and inner demons of characters and Manreet pays special attention to this aspect of the character development. None of the characters are untouched.

The story of ‘Hunt for Kohinoor’ is not only multi-faceted but also multi-layered and you often wonder how much has the author packed into the 400 pages. The novel feels compact and tightly packed with no time or words wasted in unnecessary descriptions or plot lines.

It has a very nice build-up of the story and an equally action-packed climax. I would love to see this being converted into a movie. More than taj Conspiracy, this one is more apt for picturization – on account of the locations across India-Pak-Afghanistan-Himalayas and so on and for the sheer variety of emotions and vibrant events in the storyline.

And yes, before I end the review, let me tell you that the ‘Kohinoor’ in the title is NOT the Kohinoor diamond you were thinking about when you first read the title. :)  

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.5 / 5

Writing Style: 4.5 / 5

Characters:     4.5 / 5

Story / Plot:     4.0 / 5

Climax:            4.5 / 5

Overall:           4.0 / 5 

(I loved the novel so much that I am very tempted to give a 4.25 or 4.5 overall rating)  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Book Review: White House Wit, Wisdom and Wisecracks by Phil Dampier & Ashley Walton


Book: White House Wit, Wisdom and Wisecracks - The Greatest Presidential Quotes

Author: Phil Dampier & Ashley Walton

Illustrator: Richard Jolley

No. of Pages: 224

Genre: Humor, Fiction, Quotes Collection

Publisher: Barzipan Publishing

I was approached for reviewing a book earlier, SeaBEAN, and this was the second book that came from the same source. They shared a ‘press review copy’ <soft copy> of this non-fiction book which I accepted … expecting it to be just what the title said it would be – full of wit, humor and wisecracks.

So … the book has the quotes by ALL the US Presidents till date; it is a collection of their witty one-liners, historic pronouncements, personal insights and philosophical musings. This alone might have made the book somewhat boring but the authors’ made some value-add.

They gave a very brief history of the President and some key facts and peculiar things about them like tenure (term in office), party to which they belonged, their nickname and their last words. This put in the situation of the era of their rule and gave context to the quotes. It made the book a lot more interesting to read and it gave me some good insight into the President’s of US.

I enjoyed reading the book … it was a light read; I was smiling all along. Most fun was around the recent president’s since I can identify with them and the political situation. There are quotes which are seriously humorous and make you laugh and at the same time, the quotes reflect the personality of the individual.   

Sample this one by George W Bush ‘Bush Junior’ - “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we … They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

The cover design is comic showing the caricatures of different Presidents standing at the dais. It is nice and catchy. Another important thing is the inclusion of several comic sketches / cartoons across the book. This added to the fun of the book and the illustrator Richard Jolley has indeed done a good job.


Ratings on Book Review Parameters: This one is a non-fictional fact based book which is simply recording a collection of quotes by all US President’s so the usual rating parameters of style, plot, characters etc does not apply.

Overall Rating: 3 / 5   

Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Review: The Prophecy of Trivine by Srivatsan Sridharan, Pulkit Gupta & Tnahsin Garg


Book: The Prophecy of Trivine

Author: Srivatsan Sridharan, Pulkit Gupta & Tnahsin Garg

No. of Pages: 264

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy 

Publisher: Good Times Books


One of the author’s, Tnahsin, approached me with the request for book review and looking at the fantasy theme of the book and the cover design, I said yes. The book arrived with a personalized note from the author on the first page along with the signatures of all 3 authors. Nice touch. This must be the most singularly unique cover design that I have seen in past year or so. Very attractive and pretty intriguing too

Coming to the book, it has a very ‘preachy’ subject but the authors have spelt it out under the guise of a fantastic narrative involving alien race, teleportation, mind reading, supernatural, nature and 3 guys in a forest with an alien damsel and lots of flora and fauna. The basic plot of the story is fairly simple and the book is pretty much predictive in that manner but the narrative is the key here. The authors have done a good job of story-telling.

I particularly liked the personification of the night or darkness in one of it chapters – it is almost poetic. I would have loved to reproduce the entire page of text which describes the ‘onslaught of darkness and how the night wants to be an endless one’ (but I am too lazy to type so much). But suffice to say, it was fantastic – I have never read something like this before.

The story has 3 very different characters from earth (all of them pretty young) and one key alien character (a seemingly young lady in human appearance but otherwise ageless) in the middle of dense jungle. The 3 guys come together by accident / fate (which is not really so) and the alien lady is actually performing an experiment in which the 3 have unwittingly become a part. The experiment is actually the last ditch effort (read: assessment) to decide the fate of the human race.

All these 4 characters are interesting and remain a bit of mystery to the reader through the book. The alien being comes with celestial powers so there is a lot of magic like events in the book and the reader also develops a greater appreciation for nature – flora and fauna. 

The concept of the book is interesting but it is the conclusions drawn that are thought provoking. The human race has caused so much destruction and is so selfish … does it deserve to continue its existence … or should it be considered a failed experiment and aborted without a further ado. THAT is the question faced by our alien lady who has come in draw her final conclusions before the human race is annihilated.

The author’s have used the history of the past 2-3 centuries to highlight the state of the human race (the atrocities, the bombings, terrorism, conflict etc) and make a point on how the ‘most intelligent’ species on earth has squandered away the great opportunity & privilege provided to it. Let me tell you one thing here, there is a point in the story where you begin to gravitate towards the conclusion that the human race has failed and the lady should actually annihilate earth!!!! If you get that feeling, I guess the authors have been successful in sending out the message they intended to.  At the same time, the author manages to pull you out of that conclusion showing you that the human race is complex and has shown reasons for survival too.

Also, there is a point in the story (far from the end) where the jungle safari of the 3 guys seems to have come to an end and the lady reaches her conclusions. So far so good!! But the story does not end there. It continues with all 3 guys pursuing their goals with dedication. And here is where I thought the ‘prophecy of trivine’ will come into play and there would be some fast paced action. But it did not really go as per expectation. The climax did not really build up into something awesome. This is the first part of a trilogy so a lot of loose ends were there … which will be wrapped up in the further episodes I guess.


So far so good; now coming to the downside - I found several loopholes / problems with the narrative in the second half which spoiled the fun I was having in the first half. A couple of points:


1. A father not recognizing his own son - very difficult to digest. It is not as if the guy was disguised. 


2. Simply by ‘singing’; flora and fauna is 'cured' of mutation ... so unnatural, difficult to digest, going against the grain of science (which is being highlighted by another character) 


4. There was a Russian Hacker introduced in the story with a special critical role. What role did the Russian hacker actually play ??? i am sort of fuzzy on this. Maybe I missed something.


5. The lady appeared to be mature and intelligent and assertive in the beginning ... why does she go bonkers towards the end? Doing things she was not convinced of?


6. What exactly did the 3 guys do that got Xona impressed? I somehow did not find it so impressive or remarkable that the lady is forced to re-evaluate her conclusion on humans


7. Last but not the least … What exactly was the 'Prophecy of Trivine?"


I am sure there are more questions in my mind that are unanswered and any author who leaves so many questions / loopholes open needs to re-think their book and its plot. Maybe, the authors want to make this a series and so some of these questions will eventually get settled in future parts … but nevertheless, the end of the book felt ‘incomplete’ !!!

In spite of the points above, I am not drastically reducing the rating on the book since I actually enjoyed reading the book … and at the same time, I am looking forward to part 2 of this series/trilogy. All the Best to the author trio

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 4.0 / 5

Writing Style: 3.0 / 5

Characters:     3.5 / 5

Story / Plot:     2.5 / 5

Climax:            2.5 / 5

Overall:           3.0 / 5   

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Book Review: Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister by Tabrik C

Book: Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister

Author: Tabrik C

No. of Pages: 323

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette India


Its been some time since I got a book from the BlogAdda Book Review Program and when this one came up, I tool it up solely based on the title and book cover. An interesting title and a pretty deep-meaning cover of the book were the draw for me. I had ‘mistakenly’ assumed that this book might be the story of a guy who was a prisoner once and then later became a Jailor and went on to become the Prime minister of the country. The story line would have to be pretty interesting for that to happen. Hope you noticed the word ‘mistakenly’ – because the story is NOT about the prisoner-turned-jailor-turned-PM.

Instead, what I got was a very powerful and intense narration of the life a whiz-kid who suffers from a mental condition. No, he is not mad or retarded. He is just a genius with an unstable mind. Only when you read the whole book do you begin to appreciate the real meaning behind the ‘Prisoner’ and ‘Jailor’ part of the title. You even wonder if his life events are by chance or by careful meticulous design !!

This definitely does not look like Tabrik’s first novel. His writing is very deep, insightful and multi-perspective. He has done his home-work thoroughly while writing the book researching deep about the subjects he was covering in the book … down to the last details. He has brought out the intensity of the characters as well as the situation.

The book has so many facets that you might as well read it 2-3 times to appreciate everything in there. The book has some intense characters who are not easy to fathom – character development is definitely an area Tabrik has spent time and effort on … and he has done an excellent job.

The book has some intense and very complicated relationships which are matured in ways one can hardly imagine. The author shocks the readers with the revelations and twists in the story.

Tabrik captivates the reader and does not let go till the very end. The book has all the masala of a typical Bollywood blockbuster … only it has a much better and excellent storyline.    

The story oscillates between the present and the past and while the protagonist struggles with his present role of Prime Minister … he keeps taking us back into his past to give us a glimpse of the complexity of his character and life events. There is quite a bit of suspense too ...

I will look forward to another book by the author. He has me hooked to his writing. I give tabrik a new perfect rating. It was refreshing to read this book.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. Participate now to get free books!


Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 4.0 / 5

Writing Style: 4.5 / 5

Characters:     4.5 / 5

Story / Plot:     4.5 / 5

Climax:            4.5 / 5

Overall:           4.5 / 5   

Monday, March 03, 2014

Book Review: The Taj Conspiracy by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar


Book: The Taj Conspiracy

Author: Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

No. of Pages: 402

Genre: Fiction, thriller

Publisher: Westland Publishing 


The title had seemed pretty interesting and the book blurb caught my attention and so I ordered it online. But that was 15 months ago. This had been lying in the ‘to-read’ pile but somehow never got picked up till now.

A request to review another book by the same author reminded me of this and I also found that this book and the one published now are part of a trilogy. So before I read (and review) the second, I got to pick up the first.

I had read the ‘conspiracy theory’ about the Taj Mahal being a Shiva Temple by the name Tejo Mahal and I am sure you might have read that too. Taking that one article and weaving a very good engaging story around it is what Manreet has accomplished.

Few authors are able to captivate you in the first few pages of the book. It’s a rare art and once the author’s manage to do that … the stakes and expectations are high and they got to live up to it through the entire book. Manreet captivated my attention in the first 4 pages of the Taj Conspiracy. 

This happened … in spite of the Da Vinci like clich├ęd start of having a man murdered in a famous monument with signs drawn in blood. Thankfully, the similarity ended there.

Manreet indeed has very captivating writing style which continues to hold the reader throughout the book. The story moves at a decent pace but the writing is such that you are involved and engulfed by it … and there is enough suspense about the different characters to hold you.

There are some very interesting characters, each with their own past and present with some very interesting character quirks. One of the senior members of the cast is losing his memory while the police officers and secret service agents have their own unique style and character.

There is one character with villainous inclination … he is not only deformed and horrible to look at with a practically feature-less ghastly face but the ‘main’ villain has a terribly devious bend of mind.

And then there are characters in between … with different shades of gray. You keep wondering if they are the ones behind the whole mess.

These characters, positive as well as negative, stay with you throughout the book and you will tend to remember them long after the book is finished.

The book cover design was OK. Pretty much the entire space was covered by the book name (smeared in blood) and the author name with a silhouette of the Taj Mahal occupying the top one-third of the cover space. Nice but not great.

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.0 / 5

Writing Style: 4.0 / 5

Characters:     4.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     3.5 / 5

Climax:            3.0 / 5

Overall:           3.5 / 5   

Saturday, March 01, 2014

February Reading

The list of books and stories that I read in February 2014
1        Novella: Before the Fairytale - The Girl with No Name by Kay Iscah
2           Asimov Shorts: The Gentle Vultures by Isaac Asimov
3           Asimov Shorts: All the Troubles of the World by Isaac Asimov
4           Novella : Femme Fatale from Sirens Spell Danger by Suresh Chandrasekaran
5           Novella : Bella Dona from Sirens Spell Danger by Radha Sawana
6           Novella : Bellary from Sirens Spell Danger by Karthik L
7           Asimov Shorts: Spell My Name with an S by Isaac Asimov
8           Asimov Shorts: The Last Question by Isaac Asimov
9           Novel: The Great Mogul by Rajeev Jacob
10       Asimov Shorts: The Ugly Little Boy by Isaac Asimov
11       Novel: The Taj Conspiracy by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
12       PKD Short: Autofac by Philip K Dick
13       Novel: Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister by Tabrik C

I started off the month with the Kay Iscah Novella followed by the triple-novella set written by bloggers under the title ‘Sirens Spell Danger’.

In between the novellas, I read the Asimov short stories for change of mood. With the 5 short stories I read by Asimov this month, I completed the collection titled “Nine Tomorrows”. Super awesome short stories that make you think and ponder.

After the novellas and short stories, I picked up the novel ‘The Great Mogul’. I also read the novel ‘The Taj Conspiracy’ which I had bought last year but which had remained on ‘to-read’ shelf for quite some time.

Having finished the short story collections by Asimov, I started a new one from Philip K Dick (The Complete Stories of Philip K. Dick Vol. 4 - with 18 stories). Read a story from it followed by another novel ‘Prisoner jailor Prime Minister’

In summary - I read 3 novels, 4 novellas and 6 short stories from different collections – total count of 13 for this month.