Posted in Books

Book Review: Heirs of Catriona, by Anusha Subramanian

Impressions off the back cover:
Magic… it is interesting. A quest to save a land, and two young heroines who know nothing of the land they have to save. Mythology will play a prominent part, but I feel raw emotion and a deep love for family will be something that will probably be spread in no little amounts throughout the story. And this is only the beginning of a four part series. It will be interesting to see where our authoress decides to break the plot of the entire series, and if she succeeds in casting a spell from the very first page, as written on the back-cover.

My thoughts on the book:
A teenage author bringing fantasy fiction to life… and Anusha Subramanian, just twelve years of age, does it fantastically. I think the first thing that allured me to this book was the fact that she is so young. It is a time when imagination has no limits and it can bring out some vivid images. This is a children’s fantasy fiction that will appeal to older audiences too. Something quite innocent yet filled with curiosity, action and adventure.

Two best friends (or as she puts it – soul sisters) are our heroines. They are college students, living near each other’s homes, supporting each other and working together to go through college. If you read the opening chapter, you’d think they were like any of us, nothing “special” in them. They love each other like sisters and pull each other’s legs a lot. The language is such that you’d find nothing amiss if you were in their place. They grew up on their own ever since their mothers suddenly vanished one day, leaving Sara a diary and a riddle to solve to get to a place unlike any other. They have identical butterfly pendant necklaces without the gemstones and (as we later come to know) are actually cousins.

The lives of Sara and Crystal change suddenly when an old man visits them to tell them who they really are – princesses of the magical land of Catriona, where the evil queen Merissa has imprisoned their mothers, the rightful queens of the land. They have to travel through a painting to get there, but they have to solve the riddle given by Sara’s mother Anastasia to get there, which they do. They find that Catriona is a land where myths and gods and goddesses come alive, and that they are capable of magic, which Sara sort of knew earlier. They find that to save the land, they have to find the gemstones that complete their pendants.

On the quest to find the gemstones, they find friends and enemies of the powerful kind, Catriona being a place where all myths coincide. They face obstacles that they have to get past, get wounds that heal slow at times, ant at times very quickly. And yes, all through the plot, the fact that the heroines are teenagers stand out in the narration with the language used.

To tell the sour side to all the sweetness this book holds, the characters don’t have a lot of layers. They are what they say they are, and act as they are meant to be. The heroines keep tripping up on things and knocking themselves out (which can still be considered acceptable given that they are in a strange land where they have no idea what is where and what is what for that matter) and yes, they eat a lot (too often). There are times I feel Anusha gets a Hindi line in her head and puts it in (but that works in the places and generates humor quite well).

Overall impressions:
For children, this book will hold a lot of interest and fun. For adults, if they read from a child’s perspective, or they enjoy fantasy fiction, then this book will be worth buying and keeping. Anusha brings mythology to life, and has researched about these characters quite well before writing. Her writing is influenced by many authors I feel, but the book shows the enthusiasm, imagination and more importantly, a passion that she has for writing. There are no mushy love scenes… in fact, there are only two guys in the entire story who I can say might play a part in future parts of the series. The one thing I feel she can avoid is the too much of food. With so much eating involved, perhaps the heroines would bloat on their quest! Anusha, you have a strong world of Catriona, with some amazing characters. Deepen your characters a little, that’s all I can suggest. Kudos to you… this book is one I shall keep for a long time. I hope the next part isn’t going to be much delayed coz I can’t wait to read it.


Rated a 9/10
Rated a 9/10

Book Details:
Title: Heirs of Catriona
Author: Anusha Subramanian
Genre: Fantasy / Fiction
ISBN: 9788129120403
Publishers: Rupa
Price: INR 195

 


This is an author-requested review, given for a review copy of the book, but no other payment.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Also for the Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(’12, Dec 19)

Posted in Books

Book Review: The House of Silk, by Anthony Horowitz

Impressions off the back cover:
This might just be it. A typical Sherlock Holmes novel, yet not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. How often have we seen the dramatic entrance of a worried client with the charming housekeeper Mrs. Hudson, with the duo of Holmes and Watson in their seats by the fire? The reviews put on the back cover make me intrigued, and I can’t wait to get into this mystery.

My thoughts on the book:
I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan since the day I read The Hound of the Baskervilles. I have the entire collection of short stories and four novels written by Sir Conan Doyle. I had heard about other authors writing stories based on the famed detective, but when my friend did a review (unusual for him to be doing one) on the book The House of Silk, and it said the book to be a must read for any Sherlockian, I ordered a copy immediately. Having seen other covers of the book online, I felt this one was good, but one of the others was infinitely better. Then again, one cannot judge a book by the cover, especially a Sherlock Holmes one.

For any Sherlock fan, perhaps the first question about why this novel was missed out by Watson would be the first question that comes to mind. Anthony Horowitz addresses that question first by a prologue that shows Watson mulling the circumstances why this book wasn’t put to print by him, and why it is being written now. This one touch brings a smile to the reader, and I proceed on.

The difference between conjuring, observing and deduction… and the proper use of the third to solve a mystery; that is what set apart Sherlock Holmes from other detectives in crime fiction. It’s with this very aspect that Horowitz begins the first chapter, a deduction that leaves Dr. Watson speechless as always, and demanding explanation of how Holmes came to know of it. It is this very aspect that is spread throughout the book, with Holmes surprising Watson, and other characters with his delectable deductions.

The story gets its pace from these insights, and flows superbly. The plot revolves around a man in a flat cap, stalking the owner of an art gallery seeking revenge. The narration is excellent, with the English we are used to seeing from Conan Doyle, and very vivid descriptions of the setting, the characters and emotions. The wit of Sir Doyle is also quite efficiently mirrored in the comparison to Detective Lestrade, also a well-known character of the crime fiction series. We encounter the unofficial version of the police force; the gang of street urchins led by Wiggins and their characteristic tromp up the stairs of 221B Baker Street and the complaints of Mrs. Hudson to their presence in her house. I cannot but agree with my friend that their lives have been described brilliantly by Horowitz, and the line “Childhood, after all, is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child” was one that stood out very well, one page that I earmarked for its excellence.

The story moves seamlessly from character to character, and nothing seems out of place. Even references to well-known old cases of Holmes like A Study in Scarlet and The Red Headed League are snuck in without it seeming out of place. Horowitz even brings in Professor Moriarty to good effect.

The ending to the novel catches me off-guard and I applaud the author for this twist which I never expected, and couldn’t predict in any way before that. We also see two layers to Holmes’ character that perhaps aren’t evident in prior works, but ones that work very well.

Overall impressions:
I agree with my friend that this is a must read for any Sherlock Holmes fan. It is a novel delivered with a crispness and mystery that I associate easily and usually with a novel of the legendary detective and very everything just fits, be it language, description or character sketching. It is in every way quite close to what Conan Doyle might have produced, and it comes as no surprise to me that the Conan Doyle Estate has given this book a stamp of approval. Giving this a perfect ten would mean it is as good as the originals, but I find that one character in particular stood out from the start, and it showed that the character would play a very important part in the story, which is unlike the mystery of characters in Doyle’s plotting. So this is the only glitch I find that differentiates the story by the minutest margin. But still warrants the highest rating I can give for sure.


Rated a perfect 10/10
Rated a perfect 10/10

Book Details:
Title: The House of Silk
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Genre: Crime Fiction
Book ISBN: 9781409136361
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: INR 350

 


The book is a personal copy. The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


(’12, Dec 17)

Posted in Books

#BookReview: 14 Hours by Ankur Chawla

Impressions off the back-cover:
It is a non-fiction book. What it says is what I should get. A recollection of memories, albeit some that aren’t memorable for the entire country, let alone me, or maybe even the author. For once, I think I cannot have expectations on the book, for no one can expect anything from reality. If anything life has taught me so far, sometimes even life as we live it can seem incredible.

My thoughts on the book:
When I first read the excerpt from the book 14 Hours: An Insider’s Account of the 26/11 Taj Attack, I hesitated, but only for a moment, before taking up the opportunity to read and review it. Like I said, the attack being etched into the hearts of the entire nation, I wondered if it would be worth it living it all over again.

I remember a dialogue from the Castle series that was something like, “When something like that happens, it is etched into the heart. I cannot forget it even if I want to”. I don’t remember the exact dialogue, but as a poet and writer, I can understand the sentiment that when something untoward or bad happens in our life, one of the best ways is to express it. It becomes a tear that must come out, lest it burden the eyes with its stay. When you witness death, it changes you, especially if it was at a place where, and at a time when it’d be the one thing you never expect. So witnessing a murder would be something else. Ankur Chawla was inside the Taj when the events of 26/11 unfolded, and he saw a terrorist shoot a guy, and the guy crumple down. Through his words, I could see that in slow motion, and it wasn’t something I liked imagining. His book introduces in vivid detail – the Taj and its restaurants, his friends, and his family, how he came to be at the Taj, and how events unfolded on that fateful day.

It’s always important not to panic in any situation that’s not going your way, and keep calm. Some of the staff trying their best not to let their fear out, so others will not panic either, and showing their clout with trying to crack jokes even in that situation, these little things did matter. Ankur Chawla brings all these little things out through his narration, and not to mention the worry, the mentality to handle such an impossible situation, the emotions they went through and possibly still are going through. This is a book with life and death in it, even coincidence, or a strange sense of dejavu or fate. We praise all the rescue operation soldiers who fought the terrorists on 26/11 and after to end the three day hell for the nation. After this book, I think there are many more heroes who we don’t know of.

Overall impressions:
It’s hard to bring memories etched on one’s heart on to paper; the hardest memories are the toughest to write. Whatever happened that day, and that what we knew of, that moved us beyond anything else. This is the inside story, from the eyes and recollections of one who was there. It is said as it needs to, the tone is there, yet it isn’t all seriousness, with that touches of life’s humor given here and there. A book that is a tribute to the heroes of 26/11, both seen and unseen; 14 hours is a good read, but fair warning, if you have a strong imagination, or still, like many of us, cannot live that night all over again, this might not suit your reading preference.


Rated a 7 on 10!
Rated a 7 on 10!

Book details:
Title: 14 Hours – An Insider’s Account of the 26/11 Taj Attacks
Author: Ankur Chawla
Genre: Non Fiction
Price: INR 195
ISBN: 9788129120656
Publishers: Rupa

 


This review is a part of the Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced. This is not a paid review.


Also as part of the Indian Quills at Tales Pensieve.


(’12, Dec 08)

Posted in Books

Book Review: My EX Fell In Love, by Shubham Choudhary

Impressions off the back-cover:
A simple, light and humorous love story, taking place in a college… A guy and a girl who seem completely opposites yet fall in love. The design of the cover and top part of the back-cover indicates humor and confusion between love and studies, so this might seem familiar too.

My thoughts on the book:
I am not a very big fan of love stories, but I write them well enough, and read them fine if the love doesn’t go to a sickly sweet level. Thankfully, Shubham Choudhary’s debut offering “My Ex Fell In Love” brings much humor in narration to accompany a love filled plot and hence doesn’t go anywhere near that level.

The story is narrated in first person, from the point of view of the protagonist, Yatharth, who is an engineering student. The tone of narration is very casual, and introduces every aspect that is of importance in a witty, jestful manner that makes the reader feel as if he’s part of the plot. Through the narration, we are introduced to Yatharth’s best friends – Sudeep, the hardworking, intelligent chap who is a top ranker in his entrance exams, and Vikalp, the nonchalant, uncaring sort of character who is happy with what he has, and is doing engineering mainly to get a job. Through their fun ways, they take us through life of an engineering college, the pranks and what not.

Yatharth meets the girl, Sanchita very unexpectedly, and falls head over heels in love at first sight. The hero, quite focused on his project till that time, begins to speedily go through the phases of a relationship, each time the initiative taken by the girl. Yatharth only talks of his thoughts to his best friend, and feeling that the relationship is going too quick for his liking, calls it off. The story after this point is the narration of the change from relationship to friendship.

Overall impressions:
The book, with the smooth, pacey and yet simple narration, brings the familiarity of a campus love story, and influences from movies and other books too perhaps. Some parts are absolutely brilliant, making one wish we were like Yatharth in real life, and yet not be that comical but fun character either. Shubham layers his characters well, and doesn’t make any character predictable, except perhaps Vikalp (to an extent). However, to an extent, I could predict the ending some time before the final chapter, so perhaps, that’s an area to work on. There are no serious scenes in this book, the humor laced throughout to good effect, and not a mushy story in any respect. A good read, of a story that could very well happen in life, one of strong friendship and wonderful love. For a debut novel, this is excellent, and worth the price.


Rated a 7 on 10!
Rated a 7 on 10!

Book details:
Title: My EX Fell in Love
Author: Shubham Choudhary
Genre: Humor / Romance
ISBN: 9789382473022
Price: INR 125
Publishers: Leadstart

 


The book is a personal copy. The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


(’12, Dec 10)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Not Totally Unbelievable, by Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Impressions off the back-cover:
An assortment of ten short stories, different characters in different lands in different situations, nothing in common between them but a sense of magic. The magic part would possibly make the stories flow along smoothly.

My thoughts on the book:
Well, I got this book in my hand more than a year back. I was one of the first to hear of this book, one of the first to say I want to read it, and congratulate the author, who is my friend as well, having read and followed her blog since long. I got it straight from the publisher, read it within within the month, and it was all set to be the first book I would ever review on this blog. But then, life happened, and I got lost in that, and writing and reading other books, and also became a little lax in reading. In doing that, I broke a promise given to Vibzz that I would review it. I don’t know if a late review is better than a no review, esp. late being well over a year, but seeing that I am on a review roll, I felt empty without having kept that promise, so I’m finally (yes, I know) doing it.

Each of the ten stories, like the cover says, has the element of magic common to them. Not the “abracadabra” types, but like a miracle, or something that totally makes no sense, yet makes complete sense. No, I’m not rambling, but the stories are such. Reading them gives you a feeling of positivity, inspiration and much more. Simple, fluid language is what Vibhuti uses for the most part, and that helps in keeping interest in the stories. There are ten stories, but the two that most appealed to me are “At the Lingnan Tea House” and “Ninny”.

“At The Lingnan Tea House” is an appealing story to me because it shows the bond of sisters, Lin and Liu. The sisters run the Lingnan Tea House, where an elderly man comes to visit, and becomes infatuated with Liu. The story spun delicately shows the bond between the two, and in the end, Liu is saved from the elderly man’s infatuation.

“Ninny” is the story of a young boy’s life. I think this story I find endearing because I can somewhat relate to being in the same shoes. The story inspires children not to give up on their goals, even when others do not believe in them or even try to deter them from reaching there. All we need is belief, even if it is one person.

“The Matchmaker” and “A Little Thing Called Love” were the others I enjoyed most.

Overall impressions:
What the cover promises, the stories deliver. Initial impressions weren’t let down at all, though perhaps, the back cover design and the front cover design could have been swapped. The title also is proven true. A good read, worth the money. The author bio says of a novella, and I am eagerly waiting for that now.


A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book Details:
Title: Not Totally Unbelievable
Author: Vibhuti Bhandarkar
Genre: Fiction / Short Stories
Price: Rs. 95
Book ISBN: 9789381576656
Publishers: Leadstart

 


This is an author-requested review, given for a review copy of the book, but no other payment.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Also for the Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve


(’12, Dec 04)