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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Books - Good. Bad. Horrible. Like. Don’t Like.

 

I have been reading voraciously as much as I can utilizing all my travel time in reading. And while I am at that, I have been posting book reviews on my blog which has attracted readers, authors as well as publishers. So increasingly I get requests for review from Authors and Publishers too. As of date, I have books lined up till July for reviews.

Now, when I agree to review a book, all I have in terms of decision making info are the book title, cover and book blurb. Sometimes the author bio helps and also the reviews/ratings on goodreads. Once in a while, I get a book which does not have the 'reviews' on goodreads or much of info outside.

This kind of increases the 'risk' of reading for reviewing a bad book !!

It has been a couple of times that I have come across books which I would give a zero or 1 rating out of 5. If these are book reviews done on request from author or publisher, I send the review to them asking them if they want me to post the review on the blog. Most choose the negative but in a rare case, they actually ask me to share the review on the blog but do add in a request to reconsider the 'harshness' of the review.

 

I have unfortunately read books that are very badly written. Grammar is tossed out of the window and the writing style is very patchy. In fact, I am just short of pulling my hair out while reading them. And at the same time, I am caught up in a dilemma. Can I discard / abandon the book or do I complete it. I need to complete it because I committed to reviewing the book and it won't be right to review a book without completing it. Also, there is hope at times that a book might indeed have a good storyline, a good plot or a super climax.

Then there are times … when I feel, if the book is not good half-way through, how does it matter if it ends well or suddenly becomes better. I do have thoughts which justify abandoning a bad book and writing a negative review about it. I want to abandon the book mid-way and apologize to the author/publisher for my inability to review it ... and at the same time, give them a 'piece of mind' for publishing such a bad book.  

Coming to bad books … while I consider that the author may not be good at English or with Grammar … my greater problem often is that the author is NOT a good story-teller. You got to be a good story teller. I am sure you could hire someone to polish your writings and improve the language and grammar aspects … but the ghost writer is NOT going to improve your story or story-telling.

As much as I blame the author for writing total crap … I also blame the publisher for publishing this as it is. I firmly believe that all publishers have a responsibility towards their readers. Another side of this coin is that a lot of authors when rejected by the publishers go the self-publishing way … so now there is no one to perform sanity-check quality-check readability-check …

I can understand an author not being great in his narration or writing style or even grammar. But the publisher allowing such a book to get published is not acceptable. The publisher should work with the author and invest in ironing out the wrinkles and creating a good palatable product. Not publishing at all is far more preferable than publishing a piece of work which is not consumable.

So we clearly have Good Books and Bad Books. Or do we?

We talked about Bad Books above and now coming to Good Books. They are books which are well written and are interesting and get rave reviews from a lot of people. BUT does that mean that you will like the book.

Not at All

Whether you like the book or not is something that depends on you … the reader. A perfectly fantastic book … having won accolades as well as awards … disappoints you no end. It has happened to me several times. There have been both Popular as well as Award winning books, that I have not liked. Its just that they don't appeal to me. I don't find them interesting or notice some glaring mistakes and imperfections in the story making it unpalatable. Its just me.

So that brings the category of Books one likes and one doesn't like. Got nothing to do with the author or publisher.

So .. now when you come across such a book, how do you rate it. Everyone is praising it but you find it non-sense / crap / bull-shit. What do you do then? Follow the herd and write some praise about it … or rip it apart and give it a low rating and risk being criticized.

Well, my philosophy was to write what I feel and not otherwise.

I did not like the award-winning Asura so I thrashed it … and still the author/publisher decided to send me Ajaya (author's second book) … and I loved this one. I also did not like the third part of the now famous Shiva Trilogy. Fountainhead went way over my head and the 'God of Small Things' went way over the top. As I said, that's just me.

So … if a book is bad, god help us.

If the book is good, no guarantee that you will like it ...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly


 

Book: The Tournament

Author: Matthew Reilly

No. of Pages: 432

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Publisher: Orion

 

I have loved all the books by Matthew Reilly - they are all high-octane super-crazy-fast-paced action thriller. Uncharacteristically, MR turns out a 'fictional' medieval historical mystery this time around with a sprinkling of 'real' historical figures like Michelangelo, Queen Elizabeth, Ivan (the Terrible) and many others that the average reader will readily recognize.

MR also chose a subject that is sensitive instead of his usual mad-cap crash bang chase stories.

Can't say I did not like an MR novel ... but it was disconcerting at times to read a thrilling tale with a backdrop of a sensitive subject like Child Sexual Abuse.

The narrative is like any other thriller of MR ... minus the mind-numbing action. No gadgetery and modern weaponry since the tale is set a couple of hundred years back (15th century) but the traditional bow-n-arrow, the sword and the dagger are indeed there along with non-action weapons like poisons !!

I particularly liked the setting of the story. It was interesting to read a murder mystery with the backdrop of a Chess Tournament. A murder mystery which soon translates into multiple murders ... around 6 or maybe you could even say 7 ... with multiple threads .. some even leading back to the Sultan and his empire.  

MR has researched well for the novel as it talks about the Christian and the Moslem world ... and at the same time involved all real world characters in the story.

A further cautionary read for MR fans ... this novel is meant only and only for mature audiences. Not only do certain sections of the novel read like soft-porn but there are sub-plots which are pretty repulsive (child sex abuse being a sensitve area). Unlike MR's other novels, this one actually has a lot of sex being described including orgies.  

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 4.0 / 5

Writing Style: 4.0 / 5

Characters:     4.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     4.5 / 5

Climax:            4.5 / 5

Overall:           4.0 / 5   

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Review: The Temple of Avinasi (The Legend of Kalki) by Ayush Pathak

 

Book: The Temple of Avinasi (The Legend of Kalki)

Author: Ayush Pathak

No. of Pages: 389

Genre: Mythological Fantasy, Fiction

Publisher: Frog Books from Leadstart Publishing

 

The Temple of Avinasi is something of the sort where the 'Shiva Trilogy' from the East meets 'Harry Potter' from the West; where a magical world has been created to support an Epic tale with characters pulled out from our Indian / Hindu Mythology.

I am impressed by the storyline - the suspense, the path the story is taking, the characters and their relationships. It has all the bells and whistles of the making of a grand epic tale.

This could be India's answer to Harry Potter ... only more magnificent and magical.

Something that made the story difficult to frame in the mind while reading was also how the author presents the mythical characters in a different alternative universe where they play slightly different roles. The same thing happened in the first episode of Shiva Trilogy when you had to 'see' the well-known characters in a different light. Difficult at first, but once the perspective is set; you begin to enjoy the tale.

Ramayan becomes a central tale where all the different avatars of Vishnu come together since Ravan cannot be defeated by just one of them. And then there is a lot of suspense around the final moments/days of the war with Ravana as it has been wiped out from the collective consciousness of the masses as well as the participants of the war. Very very intriguing … a powerful secret to be revealed in future episodes of the book I suppose.

A Brilliant tale in the making ... I could have easily rated it with 5 stars if not for some grammatical nuances and some silly mistakes in the narrative. For example, a child which has been brought up in a village (never seen the outside of the village) CAN NOT compare a very large palace to a Mall … simply because he/she has never seen a mall. Somewhere the author got 'out of character' even when telling the story from first person perspective.

The author has created a magical fairy-tale heavenly world of the Devas and described them in much detail to put your imagination in 5th gear. The novel is a visual treatise and I just hope the author is able to maintain the tempo of the storyline as well as the visual grandeur.

I am sure there will be several who will begin to draw comparisons between Harry Potter and the Temple of Avinasi … and they won't be wrong. All I can say is that this story has a far greater potential than Harry Potter and I just hope the author is able to live up to it … and the publisher can support the author in that endeavor. Many a great tales have met uncharacteristically futile and disappointing end due to publisher pressurizing the author rather than supporting him/her to turn out a better tale.   

Harry potter and several novels thereafter has the trio of kids … this one for a change, has 5 kids, with the central protagonist becoming the common member of the two trios.

The author has done adequate justice to all the different characters in the story giving them their space and significance. A reader should pay attention to the details in the story since many seemingly irrelevant and unimportant small things have their own place in the story and assume importance as the story moves forward.

The author has done a good work at bringing out various facets of the characters and the storyline and building the suspense in a meaningful and interesting manner, throwing just about the right amount of light on the facts. Author surely knows how to hold the readers gripped to the book.

The cover design was nothing great but the backdrop of stars/galaxy and the artistic font of the title just about captured my attention.

The author shocks the protagonist and the unsuspecting reader with the revelations in the climax. I had kind of expected it ... and it was still interesting to read the revelation.  

I loved the book and look forward to the remaining 5 books of the series … and will read all of them unless the author bungles up the story telling and succumbs to formulaic approach to literary success.

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.5 / 5

Writing Style: 4.0 / 5

Characters:     4.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     4.5 / 5

Climax:            4.0 / 5

Overall:           4.0 / 5   

Thursday, April 03, 2014

March Reading

 

1        Novel: The Prophecy of Trivine by Srivatsan Sridharan, Pulkit Gupta & Tnahsin Garg

2        PKD Short: Service Call by Philip K Dick

3        PKD Short: Captive Market by Philip K Dick

4        PKD Short: The Mold Of Yancy by Philip K Dick

5        Non-Fiction: White House Wit, Wisdom and Wisecracks by Phil Dampier & Ashley Walton

6        PKD Short: Recall Mechanism by Philip K Dick

7        PKD Short: The Unreconstructed M by Philip K Dick

8        Short Story: Button Button by Richard Matheson

9        Novel: The Hunt for Kohinoor by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

10    Short Story: Quitters Inc by Stephen King

11    Hitchcock – Most Wanted: The Last Day by Rob Kantner

12    Hitchcock – Most Wanted: St. Anne Mystery by Tonda Barrett

13    Novella: A Cupful of Aha by Anandaa 

14    Hitchcock – Most Wanted: The Mystery of the Lion Window by Jane Rice

15    Hitchcock – Most Wanted: The Sweetie Pie Caper by Dan A. Sproul

16    Novella: First You Plz by Nisha Thakur

17    Hitchcock – Most Wanted: Stork Trek by Edward Wellen & Josh Pachter

18    Hitchcock – Most Wanted: An American Visit by F. M. Maupin

19    Prof. Shonkhu Short: Diary of a Space Traveler by Satyajit Ray

20    Short Story Collection: The Trembling Fist by Lance Manion (Count: 20 to 42*)

 

 

I started off the month with the fantasy novel ‘The Prophecy of Trivine’ which is written by 3 authors. Next I picked up the book with quotes from all the Presidents of USA.

 

Having finished the short story collections by Asimov, I picked up a new one from Philip K Dick - The Complete Stories of Philip K. Dick Vol. 4 - with 18 stories. I read 5 of the PKD shorts and a short story – Button Button - on which a movie was based <I saw the movie on TV and while reading about the movie online, I saw the mention of the short story on which it was based … so I searched for the story and read it>. This also led me to another short story ‘Quitters Inc’ which became a source for a Hollywood as well as a bollywood movie.   

 

Next I picked up the novel ‘The Hunt for Kohinoor’ (in hard copy) authored by Manreet who also wrote ‘The Taj Conspiracy’ which I read last month. After this novel, I picked up the novella by Nisha Thakur and a short philosophical treatise by Anandaa (pen name).

 

Then I moved on to short stories from the Alfred Hitchcock series book ‘Most Wanted’. There were 6 stories remaining in this one and with them, I finished off this book.

 

I had read a Prof. Shonkhu Stories collection last year and was actively looking for the other collection (it wasn’t available online last year). Finally found it this year, ordered and started off reading it this month. Read the first story – will read one story each month till the end of the year

 

Finished the month with ‘The Trembling Fist’ which is a collection of 69 very short stories / essays / commentary across a variety of topics and subjects

 

In summary - I read 2 novels, 2 novellas, 1 non-fiction and 14 short stories from different collections – total count of 19 for this month.

 

* Counting the short story collection of Trembling Fist as ’69 stories’ will spike up the numbers unfairly so let me take the count for that book as ’23 stories’ instead (one-third the number).

 

So the total count for the month is 42 – better than the earlier months of the year.