Posted in Books

Book Review: The Curse of the Kalingan (Nine – Book #1), by Shobha Nihalani

About the author:
Shobha is a Hong Kong-based author who writes thrillers, a little fantasy, some cryptic humour, an occasional haiku and oddball stories of no particular genre.

Cover and blurb:
The cover doesn’t give me any idea other than that there is magic involved, which the blurb further validates, with the premise of a vengeful evil spirit returning to destroy the source of the good energy. And three young people designated to stop that spirit.

My thoughts:
Suppose the knowledge of all things good in the world were controlled by one power, and that power was in one thing. Wouldn’t you want to protect it with all you can? This story revolves around such a premise. That the good things of the world are influenced by the power of The Nine – a group of wise men who guard the Chintamani crystal, which holds that knowledge. Foreigners who have visited the country and done something noteworthy are associated with it, and the group of nine men are all well-known and respected people in their fields, albeit the fact that they are the guardians is a secret. So when the secret is out, and the group is compromised, the relaxed atmosphere turns to panic, and in this case, action.

Ages ago, a Kalingan warrior was killed by Asoka in a very bad way, and the warrior cursed the generations of Asoka to come before he breathed his last. The warrior’s spirit, after all these years, has finally acquired a body to possess. That man, now possessed by the Kalingan spirit, has limitless power and is out to avenge the injustice meted out to his ancestors (or considering the spirit is now in the body, himself). The man is Vayu, and the magical spirits conjured and trained to aid him in the cause are the Kala yogis. Vayu goes after two senior members of the Nine, and annihilates them looking for information regards the power, but by then, they along with another member, have already been replaced on the Nine by three youths. Enter the three chosen ones (The Trinity)… Tara who has the power to read thoughts, Zubin who has the power to heal and Akash who has the power of the spirit. They are chosen and brought by the nine to India, and to the Lomas Rishi caves. Meanwhile, the keeper of the knowledge has also been compromised, and he chooses a young girl Lise to carry the same back to India. Lise fails to heed a warning given by the Buddhist monk, Rinpoche and falls prey to Vayu, leaving the Trinity to not only battle for the safety of the Chintamani, but also to rescue her.

I’m happy that the book starts with the history, and the fallen Kalingan warrior’s curse, so as to set the setting. After that part, there is attention to detailing characters, while still keeping pace with the action around the Trinity. The book has the pace needed for a thriller to work, and it kept me hooked to it. The narration also had a little humor when it came to the part of letting the Trinity know, and I especially liked the dialogue back and forth between Dr. Bose and Tara. The detailing when it comes to the Kalingan spirit entering Vayu’s body was very raw, and I think the book called for that as well. I find depth to the characters too, though the Trinity are all adamant and hardheaded in their own way. In this book however, I liked the character of Vayu the most. He wants to avenge the Kalingans, but somewhere within him, his soul I felt was still his and not possessed. Even the character of Lise, who is naïve and falls to Vayu’s charms, is quite nice. The author shows a different much more mature side to Lise later on.

I think what lets this book down is the parts toward the end, which seem very hurried. I don’t mind a completely completed ending for a book in a series, but I feel it could have left a little more open than just a hint in a threat that there is more to come. Also, it’s not quite known how the secret got revealed at the start. How did exactly three of the nine come to be compromised and needing replacement. Character wise, I was wondering why Buddhist monks who advocated no negative feeling in one part of the book strike out with words against Lise, esp. when she’s carrying a precious secret that’s very essential to be kept safe. I felt that moment called for a calm approach than just a harsh reception.

Is this book worth reading? Yes it is. It has the making of a good thriller. I enjoyed it, and look forward for book two.


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

Book Details:
Title: The Curse of the Kalingan
Series: Nine – Book 1
Author: Shobha Nihalani
ISBN: 978-0-14-341885-6
Genre: Historical Thriller
Publishers: Penguin Metro Reads
Price: INR 250

 


This book is a personal copy. No payment was taken for this review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(Aug 29th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: India Was One, by An Indian

About the author:
This is perhaps the first time that I am reading a book and not knowing exactly who the author is, other than that he is an Indian. I did search to see who he is, but I didn’t get his name, just that he was born and raised in Mumbai and now stays in L.A.

Cover and blurb:
From the description and cover, I could imagine a situation where India was divided into two countries. It was hard to imagine the situation but that’s what I thought the story would be about. Coming from an Indian author, I felt it would have been as difficult for him to write it, as it was for me to imagine it.

My thoughts:
We all have, at one time or another, through our words (albeit in a casual, offhand way or to place where we are from in the country) called ourselves as North Indian or South Indian. Possibly even while discussing recipes for our favorite food items, we’d have told it to be so. But could we imagine a time in the near or distant future when there would be two separate countries like that? North India and South India? Where there’d be political turmoil and a barbed wire fence separating the nation across the middle? Well, that’s the premise on which this novel starts, and we are introduced to a couple Jai and Kahani looking at each other through binoculars on either side of the “border”. The story then enters flashback mode, and we are taken to the couple’s college days, to the time they first met and how their relationship developed, how they got married, where they went for their honeymoon, and how they settled abroad before hearing of the civil unrest that split the nation into two nations overnight.

So what is different in this book till the split happens? It sounds like yet another love story, which it possibly is, but it is much more than “just” another love story. The author doesn’t make it only about love, or their moments of romance. He tells it as it happens, and that’s what is needed I feel to make it believable. Love at first sight yet something that develops as they progress. Fun moments of friendship that are so true-to-life in college days, the excitement brought about by the monsoon, the tension of avid cricket fans during an India Pakistan match and the dreams in young eyes as they look ahead. The difficulty in getting settled abroad which we have faced or known someone who have faced it, and that desperate, inevitable feeling of homesickness that we have often heard or deciphered from the voices of loved ones who are abroad, and tried to ease through our happy talks. They are all put as it is, and there are even Hindi fonts used for authenticity (to give it an Indian touch). The Indian culture is well explained, and the author doesn’t wait till the end to do so, rather he does it immediately. I also felt that the emotions the couple go through when they find themselves separated by a border were well done. The ending was also very sad, yet something that fell in tune with the story’s flow.

There were a few things that I didn’t like. I think the first obviously is the premise. Though there is that state of unrest and the split does happen, there aren’t much details to that part. It is just put as unrest, and then the solution, just like the problem, also happens overnight. I, as a reader, would have liked to know more about what happened to cause that unrest, how were the people handling it, their state of mind and such, The second, though it gives a sense of authenticity, is the Hindi/Bengali fonts. I like that Hindi terms are used and their explanation given then and there, but if it was just in English, with a glossary at the start or beginning, the story would have gone more with flow I feel. The third was the train trip that Jai and his friends take. They reach the destination, and then suddenly we are back in Mumbai and their college cafeteria. It was confusing.

The conclusion to this book has a chapter titled Being an Indian, wherein the author speaks freely of his thoughts, and also asks us what our point of view is on what makes us Indians. I find this chapter very beautiful, and perhaps the most thought provoking part of the book. If you can procure a copy, I think it is definitely worth reading. Would I have been interested in it if I came across the book at Landmark or Crossword? I think I would give it a thought for sure, because the title, and the premise are worth pondering over.


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

Book Details:
Title: India Was One
Author: An Indian
ASIN: B004S3OWO0
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publishers: CreateSpace via Amazon
Price on Amazon: INR 175

 


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.


Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(Aug 28th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Fire in the Rain, by Surendra Mohanty

About the author:
Surendra Mohanty writes short stories. He served in the Indian Navy and retired as a Commander. This is his first novel.

Cover and blurb:
For me, the cover is the first impression that a book gives. I didn’t like it at all. It felt very childish and immature. The blurb felt interesting, and Ruskin Bond’s thought on the back cover was quite a recommendation. That’s what made me feel that the book deserves a chance.

My thoughts on the book:
Fire in the Rain… an odd title choice that confused me throughout the book, and it didn’t make sense till the last scene. Even then I’m not sure if that would be a proper title. So for those confused with the title, the book is a crime fiction genre.

Have you ever been drunk so much that you don’t remember a thing about the previous night? Well, such a situation starts us off, with Rehaan waking up in such a state, only to find a police officer and an army major there in his room to greet him. Why? Because the girl he was with the previous night was murdered and dumped close by. Not the best way to wake up, eh? The investigation starts then and there, with Rehaan dragged to the dumpsite to identify the body. Then there is a flashback to the previous night, before things speed up with an investigation of an even earlier incident to connect strings for this murder. While these two are being investigated, the author takes us to the mind of the criminal, as he commits more murders. Then we have a twist to the story towards the end.

For me, a good crime fiction needs to have four factors going its way – quick and engaging narration, the detective, the suspects and the motive for the crime. Yes, the narration was quick and engaging, and I finished my read in a few hours. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it can’t be put down once you start it, but it is good. The detective leading the investigation is ACP of the Mumbai Police, Jaswant Rao Kale. For a policeman presented as confident and in control, I felt Kale to be the opposite at times. When he can’t make head or tail of the case, he goes to a criminal psychologist for getting a profile made. It reminded me of the Numb3rs series on TV. I liked the idea, but just on a hunch by the psychologist about where the killer would strike next, Kale decides to go with it. It felt like clutching at straws. The suspects are toned down to two, Rehaan and the guy he was with, Varun. Seemed logical, given that they were two of the last three people seen with the victim, but I don’t know how within hours of the murder, the investigators pinpointed Rehaan, or found Sarika. Or even why Sarika was excluded as a potential killer. Since it is shown later that the sexual activity may have been consensual, that could easily have included Sarika too. But I quite enjoyed the “non existential” suspect idea, when Varun can’t be found. I thought it could have been a nice twist. I could see the pattern between the victims (not the dates of murder but the victims themselves) easily, so maybe the character of the psychologist was just to point toward the next city. Though Varun does come across as charming and all that, I don’t see the connection between what happened to him and his actions killing a girl on Friday the Thirteenth. Why kill four girls and then say all is fine after that? Why even kill for that matter? It left me wanting to know more about him, and that I didn’t get because of the dramatic ending. The motive for killing is trauma, which is somewhat understandable. After a shock, he turns to killing. But what I don’t understand is why it took 4 years for the killer in him to awaken? There were many Friday the Thirteenths in between, and for an angry man who wants to exact revenge, I don’t quite see him waiting 4 years to get past it and then get back to the past and begin killing. Even if he’s hunting a girl with those “characteristics”, it felt odd.

What works in the book? The pace and convincing narration takes you on an engaging trip. Though the three factors of detective, suspect and motive work only in parts, it is not completely absent. And the story feels like it could have happened. The investigation is thorough, and even has a few red herrings thrown in to keep the reader guessing.

Overall, a nice and quick read. What needs to change, and quickly, is the cover. That is a big turn off, and I can emphatically tell that a few of my friends, on seeing just the cover, questioned my judgement to even consider this book as a possible good read. I must mention though that this is a self published book, so good to see that the author to back his story and get the publishing work done himself. Best wishes for his future crime fictions.


Rated a 6/10
Rated 6/10

Book Details:
Title: Fire in the Rain
Author: Surendra Mohanty
ISBN: 978-93-5104-713-1
Genre: Crime Fiction
Publishers: Selfpublished
Price: INR. 100

 


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.


Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(Aug 3rd, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: The King’s Deception (Cotton Malone #8), by Steve Berry

About the author:
Steve Berry is the author of the Cotton Malone series of novels. He is an international bestseller author whose books have sold over 12 million copies and translated into 40 languages. He has also taught writing to audiences across the globe.

Cover and blurb:
The cover shows a castle with a red swirl over it. This, plus the blurb about a 500 year old secret that is startling in its revelations, makes the story interesting. A historical thriller that I might love.

My thoughts:
Historical thrillers are something to ponder on. To be executed well, it should be researched well, and yet give the feel of continuity, like it flows from scene to scene, character to character and not stick to just the historical details. Reading Berry was a revelation of just such a book, well written and – borrowing a term I’ve heard from many of my friends these days – unputdownable.

The historical event – a secret that has been kept for and by generations of Tudors – brings in the interest for the reader at the start. Brought to the present time to set the tone for a little drama, the reader is taken back again in a flashback, as Cotton Malone narrates the events that got him and his younger son Gary involved in a case that revolved around that big Tudor secret. It’s the drama that sets the base for the case. To add to the interest is the impending release of a Libyan terrorist from a Scotland prison on humanitarian grounds, one that is seen as a reason for the world to question the power houses.

The secret threatens the monarchy, the monarchy has the power to change things, so this secret in the wrong hands would wreak havoc. To do that, a cunning and somewhat obsessed villain is needed. Berry gives us a few of them in this novel, but the one that stands out, and one that connects in a totally unexpected way, is rogue CIA agent Blake Antrim. Egoistical sod that he is, he is prepared to use any means necessary to complete his mission. The problem… the secret is half way across the world, stolen by a young boy. Cheeky, innovative and street smart, Ian’s character is appealing and yet a little confusing. You love him, but nitpicking a little, you begin to wonder how a boy, a petty thief ends up half way across the world running from people. Bringing him back to England is Malone, with his son Gary. Cotton is someone one can admire as the hero. He doesn’t have a panic button, takes the right decisions on the spur of the moment and such. Gary, well you could almost say he’s a chip off the old block (almost… almost!) The trio are kidnapped from Heathrow, and well, the rest is to you to find out.

Berry’s characterization is brilliant. He works his threads well, keeping us interested in his plotting, and also in the characters. Major characters are slowly developed, the secondary ones brought in and shot out (literally) when needed. There’s history, thrill and even some family drama in the book. Frankly, I didn’t feel the necessity for the third, the novel could have worked without it too. The secrets and the events come out well to hold the attention of the reader, albeit they might seem a little too easy to use. One thing I feel the book could use is a little bigger font size. I’d be thrilled to see that in future thrillers.

Interested in history, action and a fast-paced book? This, I feel, is one for you.


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

Book details:
Title: The King’s Deception
Author: Steve Berry
ISBN: 978-1-4447-5470-4
Genre: Historical / Thriller
Publishers: Hodder / Hachette India
Price: INR. 350

 


This book was given to me for review by Hachette India. This is not a paid review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with First Reads at b00k r3vi3ws.


(Aug 23rd, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Eithihyamala (Malayalam), compiled by Kottarathil Sankunni

About the author:
Kottarathil Sankunni is a well known author in Malayalam Literature. He started compiling the legends of Kerala in 1909 and completed the work over eight volumes and taking nearly a quarter of a century. He died in 1937.

Cover and blurb:
A simple yet elegant and ornate cover with some hieroglyphs or such and a curtain, as if we are being invited into the room of legends, of folklore known and unknown.

My thoughts:
Reading a book in my native language was always something I had wanted to do. It’s not something that I find easy, being born and brought up elsewhere and not knowing the lingo or even all letters in Malayalam, and I restrict myself to usually newspapers or small magazines at most. So earlier this year, I told myself that I would read a book in Malayalam, and read it completely at that. The book I chose is this one.

Aithihyamala, translated to “Garland of Legends”… it is a book that contains all eight volumes, and over one hundred and twenty legends of Kerala folklore. Not something everyone would be familiar with, but maybe most Malayalis would know of. To read a translation and get the feeling of awe is difficult in itself, so reading it over eight months and in Malayalam was quite exciting.

Stories like Kadamatathu Kathanar, the story of the priest of Kadamattom Church, believed to possess supernatural powers, or Kayamkulam Kochunni, the Robin Hood of Kerala highways in the early 19th century are quite famous. Others like the Parayi Petta Pantirukulam, meaning twelve kulams (ethnic groups) born of a pariah woman, and Thiruvattatthadhi Kesavan, an elephant which considered to be auspicious, are not that known, yet interesting. Speaking to another Malayali friend Acchuse, she mentioned the tale of Viddikushmandam as her favorite: it is a story about someone who is thought of as a fool, and rejected by a guru, then years later, that someone returns as a great guru/healer.

This book is a mixture of entities, you could say, with myriad colors. It has the stories of thieves and kings, vampires and magicians, gods and goddesses and even elephants. When I spoke to my grandmother about the book, she already knew about it, and told me these stories were part of her childhood stories, told as bedtime stories or just for passing time during a rainy afternoon. And after reading these stories, I can’t help but agree. Not sure about it being bedtime stories, some feel a little scary at times, but it feels just right for a rainy afternoon and sharing with young kids.

If you can read and understand Malayalam, I’d suggest you to try this book sometime. It is really magical and fun. I’m going to have to read it again, as it has not quite sunk in just yet. But 900 pages in Malayalam, that too more of an old school lingo… well, that’s an achievement of sorts for me already. I’d rate it higher if I could, and this is a perfect book and deserves the perfect rating on my scale.


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

Book details:
Title: Eithihyamala
Compiled by: Kottarathil Sankunni
ISBN: 9788126422906
Genre: Fiction / Legends
Publishers: DC Books
Price: INR. 295

 


This book is a personal copy. No payment was taken for this review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(Aug 18th, 2013)