Pages

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: The Professional Freelancer by Rory Scherer



Book: The Professional Freelancer

Author: Rory Scherer

No. of Pages: 114

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Self Published using Amazon Digital Services

 

A nice little short novel - in fact, a surprisingly good Novella

The setting was unique and very interesting. The narration style created the right sense of suspense and kept you glued to the pages and made it difficult for you to stop reading until you finished.

The highlight for me was the fact that it was written in first person from the point of view of the protagonist. It's been some time I have read a story in this format and I have always been biased towards it. I kinda like to see the story unfold from an individual's point of view.

Another thing was the attention to detail that Rory has given to the setting and the storyline. I can hardly describe it. You better read this one to know what I am saying.

I enjoyed reading it and would easily recommend this to anyone looking for a short and nice read ...

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.0 / 5

Writing Style: 4.5 / 5

Characters:     4.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     4.0 / 5

Climax:            4.5 / 5
Overall:           4.0 / 5   

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Book Review: The Threshing Circle by Neil Grimmett


 



Book: The Threshing Circle

Author: Neil Grimmett

No. of Pages: 294

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Grimpen Publications

 

It was a strange book to read and review. A pretty much twisted revenge and vendetta story with some clearly identified actors and 2 families guarding and defending their honor.

But that's not the key to the book.

Neil Grimmett spends a lot of effort to give you a deep insight into the thoughts and feelings of the people involved and how their perceptions, decisions and actions are defined by the deeply ingrained virtues as well as what they see first-hand. How new info is interpreted and often misunderstood and how it impacts the earlier formed perceptions.

Neil uses the central character to display these vagaries of being emotional and I would say he has done a decent job of it. The village setting was also well-used in the story and one could see how it impacted the thinking of the people there.

There were times when I was bored due to the seemingly slow pace of the book but thankfully I persisted. I liked the way the story was wrapped up and how things were taken care of a very real worldly way and not a 'fictionalized' 'all-is-well' manner. Not to say that the story did not end up in a 'all-is-well' manner.

Very difficult to describe it in words ... you will know it when you read it.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 2.5 / 5

Writing Style: 3.5 / 5

Characters:     3.5 / 5

Story / Plot:     3.0 / 5

Climax:            3.5 / 5

Overall:           3.5 / 5   

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Book Review: The Nidhi Kapoor Story by Saurabh Garg


 

Book: The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Author: Saurabh Garg

No. of Pages: 316

Genre: Fiction, Murder Mystery

Publisher: Grapevine India

 

This one was not easy to review. I liked the book when I started reading it and then it became slow. I began to think that the author was losing it, when some twists in the story brought me back into it and I was interested. It again began to lose pace and I was rapidly losing interest but the climax was near and I wanted to know 'for sure' who-dun-it (I had already guessed it long ago in the book). Right then, the author killed off a key character and I was stumped. The climax was as expected but pretty much anti-climactic.

At the end, I was left with the feeling of incompleteness. I felt that the book could have been much much better. I even picked up several flaws in the narration and several things did not seem logical to me. So I wrote to Saurabh (the author) and he graciously took all my criticism and comments. He tried to explain the 'flaws' that I had told him about and I must say, I agreed with some while on some, I remained unconvinced.

There was one thing which I actually liked about the book - the idea of telling the story in 5 chapters ... with different perspectives ... with different events to highlight the perspective. I personally feel it is a brilliant writing device and gives a very different feel to the reading experience (and I am going to give one-star to this book, exclusively for that). Although, I must also state that I am not sure how well it was executed by the author ... since between the back and forth, there are chances that some things got lost, edited, missed etc. leaving some loopholes and gaps in the story.

The uniformly high rating and good reviews the book has received on Good-Reads and blogs makes me feel that probably I was overly critical about the book. But then my book review is about what I feel about the book. I feel there are flaws in the storyline, the basic plot and the climax was very weak and not impactful enough. 

It was a decent book and my only advice would be that you read the book with an open mind. DO NOT read it as you would read a murder mystery thriller because IT IS NOT THAT. Read it for the unique writing style and turmoil that goes inside the heads and hearts of the various characters.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 1.5 / 5

Writing Style: 2.5 / 5

Characters:     3.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     2.0 / 5

Climax:            2.0 / 5

Overall:           2.5 / 5   

 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review: Transactions of Belonging by Jaya Padmanabhan\


 
Book: Transactions of Belonging

Author: Jaya Padmanabhan

No. of Pages: 197

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

Publisher:  Leadstart

 

I have reviewed short stories collections but this one was different. Intense, Unpredictable, even Strange at times.
The stories had a strange tranquil quality to them. They had some substance and had a slow pace with some of them striking your heart in the right manner, while others hitting hard.

I liked the collection although I won't say I loved it and would give it 5-star ratings. But that's more to do with me than the book. I enjoy action thrillers and even in case of short stories, I prefer the ones which surprise me rather than move my heart.
But an occasional sensitive read is always good for the mind and the soul ... and the intellectual and spiritually inclined self.

A nice collection of short stories none the less. Anyone can pick this one up and can't say they did not like it.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 2.0 / 5

Writing Style: 3.0 / 5

Characters:     3.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     3.0 / 5

Climax:            NA / 5

Overall:           3.0 / 5   

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: The Einstein Pursuit (Payne & Jones novel) by Chris Kuzneski


 

Book: The Einstein Pursuit (Jonathon Payne & David Jones #8)

Author: Chris Kuzneski

No. of Pages: 432

Genre: Fiction, Action Thriller

Publisher: Headline

 

Started and completed over the weekend. Completed the book even before I could actually 'start reading' it on Goodreads.

This was my kind of book and Kuzneski is my kind of author :)

Fast paced action packed thrillers with a sprinkling of humor ... that's what I loved about Robert Ludlum, that's what I loved about Matthew Reilly and that's what I love about the Payne and Jones series of Kuzneski.

P&J offer the right amount of action with their own version of humor in their conversations. Even in the most threatening of situations, the humor is a constant companion and a relief for the reader. Acts like a pressure valve and reminds you (the reader) to smile, laugh and yes, BREATHE.

The action is believable and the humor is good. I smiled many a times and on some occasions, even had a good laugh. Why ... Kuzneski even mentions himself in the novel. I am sure he was smiling/laughing to himself when he wrote the lines.

The plot is good. Interesting.

Climax could have been more spectacular. Like the opening scene - which was damn spectacular - visually speaking. In fact, as compared to the opening, the climax sequence was kind of pale. Wish it was visually spectacular and with a better plot/twist etc. I could have given a 5 star right away.  

The expectation and suspense build-up was pretty good … but then the climax where all threads are tied and loops are closed; it seemed lacking in punch. The effect was that of an anti-climax.

The Cover was a bit of a let-down. It did not really present any attraction and I could have overlooked the book if I was not looking for it.

At the end of the book, I had this feeling that the book could have been called "the XYZ pursuit" and the same could have been used in the book … and it would not make any difference to the story. Einstein was a strong and good anchor to use but any other name could have been used. Somehow I felt, Kuzneski should have given a far stronger connect with the name.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.0 / 5

Writing Style: 4.0 / 5

Characters:     3.5 / 5

Story / Plot:     3.0 / 5

Climax:            3.0 / 5

Overall:           3.5 / 5   

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Freedom from Boring Breakfast


    
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I have been very very particular about it all through my life. A habit formed in early childhood, reinforced by parents and grand-parents.

Incidentally, what also got reinforced in the process was my breakfast routine … tea with 2 khakhra.

It does become boring at times to have the same breakfast over and over again so it is a relief to have upma, poha, those thin noodles (namkeen sevaiyya), sweet breakfast like sheera, occasional parathas, and even sandwiches etc.

When I was staying away from home, I ended up with the cornflakes and bran flakes and rice flakes and the entire variety around it. Frankly I was never satisfied with them since the habit was to have hot tea and breakfast (which was also often hot) in the morning. The cold milk + breakfast cereal combination was never satisfying. But I did not really have an option so that was what I had.

It was always good to come back home from my business trips and enjoy hot breakfast once again.

But even at home, the tea+khakhra was a norm for me and the occasional hot breakfast would be once or twice in a week. If I asked for some variety, mom would always say, there are just these few options.

I had nudged my wife to ‘cook’ up some varieties for breakfast but even she was running out of ideas … she had tried bread poha, different types of sandwiches etc … but BREADS are not the healthiest of things to eat so even they are rare (maybe I can say: rarer) now.

I have never really suggested we have breakfast cereals at home in India because they did not fit. Remember the cold milk combination that I talked about.

But then recently, they have started talking about alternative ways of consumption. That caught my attention. I checked out their website http://www.kelloggs.in/ and their Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/anaajkanashta - for more information

And there I found their latest campaign #KellogsWaleGuptaji and a treasure trove of pretty interesting recipes for snacks and breakfast made using Kellogs and a variety of nice and healthy ingredients found in every home. I also found this video on youtube

 
Some of my favorites from the recipes are:

1.       Chapati Cornflakes Chivda - A crunchy snack made wholesome with chapatti power

2.       Cornflake Popcorn Clusters - watching movies with the popcorn in different style

3.       Apple Cinnamon Cornflakes - sweetness of apple with a cinnamon twist

 
 
 


I would readily visit #KellogsWaleGuptaji ‘s home to savor the healthy delicacies and also take my wife along to learn from them. I think, while I will always remain faithful to my tea+khakhra breakfast, I think we will have a good variety of breakfast as well as evening snacks now.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Happiness Anchors


I have written a lot about my daughter recently and how can I even begin to write about happiness without thinking about her and without mentioning her.

At this stage in life, ALL my happiness originates from her. As if my world has shrunk to the size of her fist.

If I were to make a list of things that make me happy … she is right on top of it and crawling all over it. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the world makes me more happy than her presence.

I am still waiting for her to say 'Papa' clearly. She said 'dada' several months ago and soon afterwards, 'Nana' followed. Next came 'Mumma' but 'Papa' is still elusive. Everyone in the house has made their fair share of attempts to make her say 'Papa' and a few accidental occurrences would have happened too. But, I still wait for the day when she would look at me and say 'papa' without any prompt. My happiness will limitless when I hear that one single magical world from the little one who is my world.

So what are the other things that make me happy you might wonder. I am a simple family oriented person with a singular hobby of reading. I am extrovert for those who know me well and an introvert when I am between strangers.

So first of all … my FAMILY makes me happy. I am all content and satisfied when I am with my family (which incidentally was pretty less since until recently I had a consulting job which made me travel frequently). Being around my parents, my wife and kid, my brother, my cousins and extended family … that's the kind of life vision I have. So family first.

Next of course, FRIENDS – How drab and boring life would be without our friends. And of course, in all those friends; we also have that one best friend who is your alter ego. Someone, to whom you would said umpteen number of times, "What would I do without You?"

Spending time with friends and having fun is next on the list of things that make me happy.

After family and friends, it is definitely BOOKS. Give me a good book and a comfortable book with something to munch on (namkeen, crackers, chips) and something to sip on (coca cola, coffee, even limbu paani) and I am set. I can then transcend such levels of pure nirvana that Buddha might have found difficult to imagine. Books are my drugs and they give me the ultimate high.

 

That mention of Coca Cola reminds me of their happiness campaign. While other cola companies create an appeal for the 'youth'; Coca Cola has always maintained a family appeal focusing on 'happiness' rather than any other ephemeral emotion of adventure or zing. Check out this Coca-Cola India Video Ad and you might even want to visit http://CokeURL.com/96jnc
 
 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Being Together


 

The past one year, the entire 2014, was pretty travel heavy for me. I was flying in and out of the country every month spending 2-3 weeks outside and only 1-2 weeks at home. It was taking a toll on a lot of things – my health, my relationship with my pregnant wife and my state of happiness in general.

I wasn't able to give my wife as much time as I wanted to and she desired … that too at a crucial juncture of life. There were so many times I was visiting the doctor either just before flying out or right after landing. There were times when I missed the appointment or an important sonography since I was not in the country.

I was getting extremely uncomfortable with this mode of living and this phase of my career. I needed a job which kept me with my family. At least with my wife, if not parents. If it could give me a geographical stable role in Mumbai … where I could stay with my parents and wife (and kids); I would love to take it up.

But alas, jobs don't really come your way when you need one. Those which came did not really fit my profile. A couple of interviews I gave, I ended up telling the interviewers about my unsuitability for the role. Appreciated – yes. Job offer – of course, No

Some of the jobs which could give me that … would result in a sharp decline in my salary. Those 'stable' desk jobs would never be able to match up even 75% of my consulting salary. That's where things were not moving ahead.

 

And then my daughter was born.   

 

I had returned from Kuwait on 15th May and she was born the very next day (I almost missed it – but thankfully didn't). I spend most part of the week in the nursing home by my wife and daughter.

As much as I looked at both of them, the pangs of forthcoming separation would strike me.

And then another Kuwait trip happened and then another and then another.

It was around the month of October when I returned from the 4th trip after my daughter's birth. She was 5 months old now and she could recognize the faces of the family members.

When I came home from the airport and held her in my arms, expecting there to be a sign of recognition or a glimmer of a smile … all I got was a blank expression from here. An almost confused look.

I mentioned that someone in the house mentioned that since I was away for 3 weeks; she might have forgotten me.

I did not sleep that night.

That statement had struck me like a sledgehammer.

I spent the next 3 days at home with my daughter - Building familiarity with her. She again began to recognize me and smile at me. Those 3 days were almost life changing for me.

The resolve to move away from the consulting job strengthened and every time I looked at my daughter's lovely face, I was filled with hope, optimism and positive vibe for the future.

I decided to take some hard and aggressive concrete action towards my job search and I began the same. Within a month, exactly on my birthday in November, I gave myself the gift of a resignation from my current job.

I knew that together with family, I could brave any storm in my career and my earnings. Family was the most important aspect of my life and I was giving it a priority. I was pushing away the career which could give me wealth for a chance to live a happier life.

Well … as luck would have it. Very soon, I got a job opportunity which kind of offered me a decent salary (so I did not really have to forego my salary levels in the end). Unfortunately, I am currently away from my family but it is temporary state of 2-3 months … after which I will be staying with my wife and kid without any separation on regular basis. BLISS.

The only hitch is that I did not get the job in my hometown so I won't be living with my parents now. We will be going to our hometown to spend a week or two, every 4 months. Maybe, we don't get everything that we want. But we do get something.   

Those 3 days spent with my daughter gave me hope and optimism, which fired up some courage cells in my head which helped me take some action and resign within a month from a job which was no longer making me happy.

 

https://housing.com/ believes in the inimitable power of optimism. They know that it's difficult to be optimistic all day, every day; and at times we need a little nudge to get back on track! This is the time we need to be with the ones we love the most. It could also be the simple act of meeting a long lost friend, having a cup of tea with a parent, or going for a walk with your best friend. Most times, it's the company that matters more than the advice, and that is the power of being #together!

Monday, March 16, 2015

#ShareTheLoad is nothing new for us


 
 
No ... Really.
The #ShareTheLoad concept is nothing new to our family and that is Thanks to my grand-father. I have seen him washing his dhoti and other clothing himself even at the ripe age of 70+ and since all of his clothing was white; he had been using Ariel for washing them ever since it was launched in India. He kind of migrated and upgraded from Nirma to Surf to Ariel and then there was no looking back. The #ShareTheLoad or #WashBucketChallenge were an integral part of his life rather than a challenge or a one time thing.

And that's where Dad got it from. Even after the introduction of the washing machine in our homes, there was always some clothes washing that we regularly had to do. Not the big ones but smaller pieces … just to stay in the habit of washing clothes. In fact, whenever he visits our native home in Rajasthan, he washes all the clothes himself … and whenever I have travelled with him, I (have to) join him in the task.
We would take several bucket loads of clothes (from 3-5 days of travel) and wash them in an open space in our native home. It would be fun (and very tiring in the end … its hard work after all and something we are not used to). We have been doing that for years now and it comes naturally.

It translates to the city living in a far simpler manner with the existence of a fully automatic washing machine at home. Our role at best is of dumping clothes in the machine and pressing a few buttons and throwing a scoop of ariel washing powder in it. There is hardly any effort in that. That's the easy part of washing.
Effort nowadays is required in taking the washed load out and hanging them out in the sun on the clothesline and then after a few hours, collecting it back and folding them neatly and organizing them back into the respective cabinets. (And you thought 'washing' got over with the washing machine). And yeah, not to forget ironing of the clothes

Over the years, I have helped out mom in all these various tasks related to washing – whenever I am home. Typically on weekends. I have done all of the above … and have seen dad assisting mom in doing so for years.

With wifey coming in a couple of years back, me and my dad have little role to play but with our daughter coming in last year, she keeps wifey busy and hence I have had my chance to do those tasks again.

So … I was wondering. Do I really need to take the #WashBucketChallenge or pledge to #ShareTheLoad … well, I don't really need to (since I have already been doing it for years) but let me put it this way…

I am moving into a new home with my wife and kiddo and in the new house, I pledge to @ShareTheLoad … not just in washing clothes but also in other 'washing' / 'cleaning' / household chores … I am sure wifew will be very happy to see her lazy husband pledge something like this J

And yeah … in pictures, that's my dad and bro with the new Ariel Matic pack … taking up challenge of the washing machine over the weekend. Well … Mom was out and both of them confused with the washing machine control panel and had to call up Mom for directions ! The new washing machine panel was confusing to me too so I can't blame them.
 
  
 
 

'This post is a part of the #WashBucketChallenge activity at BlogAdda.com is association with Ariel India' and also of the biggest Sponsored Review Program  for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free Products!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Review: The Seal of Surya by Amritanshu Pandey



 

Book: The Seal of Surya

Author: Amritanshu Pandey

No. of Pages: 272

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Pirates

 

WOW !! That's what I will say for this one.

Pirates have done it again. They have pleasantly surprised me by publishing a book that is a challenge in itself. I wish them all the luck in this and also wish luck to the author who has begun writing a grand epic of gargantuan proportions … something like a cross between Mahabharata and Lord of the Rings. I just hope and wish the author's first book is well received and he is encouraged to write further and complete the series.

The incredible universe that the author has created is full of possibilities and a truly grand epic can be woven out of it. The potential is immense and I seriously hope that the author is able to 'milk the cow' to its full potential and then some more.

The author has begun the epic talking about the life and times of a king in ancient India. The story spans across the decades; right from his early childhood to the age where is ready to leave all and search for ultimate truths in life. There are references to the lineage and legacy he carries. There are the conflicts that he faces and also those which are faced by his close ones as well as enemies. The narration has all the "masala" and emotions with the relationships showing both friendship as well as treachery.

The narration gives you an insight into the human mind and somewhere along the journey of the king; there is a spirituality lesson for the reader too. What is the purpose of one's life and how does one understand it. The author does not preach the 'ultimate truth' of spirituality and abandonment; instead he has a far more practical and balanced approach to it. It was a delight to read about it in a very subtle manner.

An excellent cover design by Ashish Subash Boyne. When you see the cover, you can feel the gaze of the warrior and also the war-scene and the essence of the book (more from the look on the warriors face rather than the war scene - which is actually in contrast). Few authors and publishers go to great lengths to invest time, effort, research and money with a no-compromise attitude. For me, the cover design of this book reflects that commitment by the author and publishers. Equal credit to them along with heaps of praise for the artist behind it.

Do visit the website - www.ScrollsOfAryavarta.com - to learn more about the incredible universe Amritanshu has created. 
  

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 4.5 / 5

Writing Style: 4.0 / 5

Characters:     4.5 / 5

Story / Plot:     4.5 / 5

Climax:            4.5 / 5

Overall:           4.5 / 5   

P.S. – I am sooooo tempted to give a 5-star rating. But then I don't want the 5-star rating to get into their heads. I want the publishers, author, cover designer to go an extra mile (beyond the extra mile they have already gone) for the next one to covet my 5-star rating :P

Thursday, March 12, 2015

‘Book Review’ of 2 Short Books by Douglas Misquita


 
For a change, this is not a book review post in the general sense. Instead it is the review of two short 'books' (each around 40 pages) by Douglas Misquita … and both of these are not even from similar genres. One is a fiction thriller (Know Thy Enemy) while the second is a kind of travel memoir (Impressions of Egypt).


 

Book: Know Thy Enemy

Author: Douglas Misquita

No. of Pages: 40

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Short Story

Publisher:  Self Published

 

Know Thy Enemy is a short story which is acts as a prelude to 'The Apocalypse Trigger' which is Douglas Misquita's full length action thriller. You can download it for free from the author's website www.douglasmisquita.com   

The Book Description reads: An artifact from the Baghdad National Museum could justify the coalition invasion of Iraq. But the artifact is among items looted from the Museum just before the invasion. CIA Analyst, Emma Burrows enlists the help of Captain William Bradford and a small Joint Task Force 2 team to retrieve the artifact. Unknown to them, a mercenary unit led by Luc Fortesque is also after the stolen artifacts intending to sell them on the black market. Know Thy Enemy is an action-short that introduces two key characters from the full length thriller novel, The Apocalypse Trigger.

Review: A nice fast paced short story with CIA, weapons of mass destruction, museum of Baghdad with its priceless artifacts plundered and special-ops and mercenaries. A pretty interesting one … something that gives me confidence of picking up the full length novel and not getting disappointed.

I think Douglas could have made the short story more impactful by having a better climax and of course taking the action a bit further. Nevertheless, the short story was a nice read. It does good work of introducing some interesting characters and now I look forward to reading the full length novel 'The Apocalypse Trigger'.   

 

------------------------------------------------------------

 


Book: Impressions of Egypt

Author: Douglas Misquita

No. of Pages: 40

Genre: Travelogue

Publisher:  Self Published

 

This one was good. Short sweet travel journal.

It was interesting to read about Egypt and its sights through the eyes and words of a writer. The way things are described is very different. I enjoyed reading this short book and look forward to my own trip to the land of pyramids and mummies (someday)

I have always been fascinated by Egypt and its ancient culture and all the folk lore around its history. The book did a good job of rekindling my desire to make a trip to Egypt. Someday. Surely.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters: I am not rating these two on the different parameters since I use them for full length books/novels and these are like short stories. It will be overkill. I think it is suffice to say that I enjoyed reading both 'short' books and you might enjoy them too.