Book Review: The Longest Ride, by Nicholas Sparks

The thing about popular authors is that their reputation precedes them. Even if I haven’t read their books or know their style, just by the way people around me rave about their work, I feel that their books will, or should, have that quality in their work. There are exceptions to this case of course, but when I hear Nicholas Sparks, I imagine that he’s at the top when it comes to romance fiction, considering my sister is one huge fan of his work.

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The Longest Ride is not one story but two, two love stories of two different generations and ages. It is this that makes this book more appealing to me. It shows the difference, like two phases of a jelly perhaps. One is just into the mold and starting to take shape. The other is (or was) set and waiting to be bitten into. The common thing between them of course is that they are sweet. It is because one story is waiting to be explored that makes that story more loved, more eager to be read and enjoyed. Ira’s eternal love for Ruth made that part captivating, and engaging. Sophia and Luke… their story was likeable, but not superb I feel, even with the different backgrounds and the should-not-work-but-does-work plot. Perhaps it was meant to be that way, because their characters have no oomph, no excitement factor that makes it memorable.

Did the book manage to make me a fan of Nicholas Sparks? I don’t know yet. It was good, and almost great. It makes me think of reading another book to see how his writing style is, if it is the same or if it offers variety. So in that way, I feel the book is successful. It’d have been much better if both stories were equally engaging and exciting, or even if Sophie and Luke’s characters didn’t feel one-colored.

In A Gist:
Positives: Ira and Ruth’s story, engaging narration.
Negatives: Luke and Sophie’s story not as exciting, and their characters were dull.

About the author:
Nicholas Sparks is an American author, screenwriter and producer. He has written eighteen novels, and eight of his romantic dramas have been adapted to film.


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

Book Details:
Title: The Longest Ride
Series: N/a
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Genre: Romance Drama
ISBN/ASIN: 9780751549973
Publisher: Hachette India / Sphere
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 Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws


(31st January, 2014)

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Book Review: The Other Side, by Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee

The genre of horror is one that I love to read and sometimes attempt to write. For a story in the genre to be successful, I feel it has to have the capacity to make the reader imagine it, and feel the chill through their bones. It’s not just a sense of the paranormal, or a story with ghosts and other scary creatures in it that makes a story a horror story. That would be just a story with horror elements. I remember RL Stine and Goosebumps when I think of the genre. But this book was a different kind altogether, because it had thirteen (yes, interesting number isn’t it?) short stories in it.

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The Other Side is a book that caught my attention because it was from two authors whose stories I had read before and enjoyed. The first thing I liked about the book was the cover design. It was really suited to the genre, and I liked the idea of bringing the cover to life.

I think overall, the story is a mixed bag of mostly good stories and some average ones. I honestly do not feel any story is terrible in this collection, and that’s something positive. Stories like “The Long Weekend” and “The Lady in the Pub” make for wonderful reading. The former especially comes to mind because of a wonderful double-twist that is present in it. I think that’s another thing the authors have managed to do well. When there is a twist in the story at the end, it’s unexpected and something that falls in line with the plot before. The narration is simple, and mostly evocative, imaginative. “The Muse Comes Calling” is a story that I felt was scary for any author, but the ending was a buzzkill to be very frank. I expected something better. The other stories that didn’t quite appeal to me was “That Fateful Night” and “The Man Who Did Not Fear”, for similar reasons.

I wouldn’t call this book very horrifying, but it does leave a mark on you after you are done with the read. Very nicely written, and some of the stories do have the capacity to bring that chill that I talked about earlier. The things that don’t quite work are some of the stories’ endings. And the illustrations inside. I felt a lot of similarity between some illustrations, which didn’t quite work for me. I think it’s best to read this at night. Maybe if you have a night’s train journey and you’re not very sleepy, this might be a nice company, worth the price. Though if you’re a highly reactive person, I’d be careful not to jump up with a scream if a co-passenger tries to break your concentration!

In A Gist:
Positives: Engaging narration, interesting twists, stories that let you imagine them happening
Negatives: Some stories had a dull ending; illustrations look similar.

About the author:
Faraaz Kazi is an Indian author, who has won many awards for his debut fiction including the 2013 National Debut Youth Fiction Award and the YCOF National Excellence award in Creative Writing. A pediatrician by profession, Vivek Banerjee calls himself as an author by accident. An avid traveller, he has covered the length and breadth of the country in real life and the rest of the world in his imagination. He has been published in many anthologies.


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

Book Details:
Title: The Other Side
Series: N/a
Author: Faraaz Kazi, Vivek Banerjee
Genre: Short Stories / Horror
ISBN/ASIN: 9789350880760
Publisher: Mahaveer Publishers
Price: INR. 150

 


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


Shared with Indian Quills 2014 at Tales Pensieve.


(31st January, 2014)

Book Review: I’m a Woman and I’m on Sale, by Mallika Nawal

I have an old school philosophy when it comes to books. The first impression that a book makes on me is very important. Two things that play a very crucial part in that impression are the cover and the blurb. The reason I chose to read this book however is that it was dedicated to Nirbhaya. I don’t think I need to go into the details of who she is, because the country, maybe even the world, is painfully aware of that.

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I’m a Woman and I’m on Sale, the first of a three book series, follows Harsh Jalan, a senior partner in a law firm and a very successful and smart lawyer. Maya walks into his office one fine day and his life goes topsy turvy. Maya is a victim of abuse, has been through it before too. She goes ahead and files a writ this time, but her boss isn’t one to be silent. He takes measures to keep the case, and her, silent.

Well, remember my two-part philosophy? I liked the simple cover design, though it felt a little funny. But I was very disappointed with the back cover. A book sells, I feel, on the basis of a blurb too. It’s the first look into what lies ahead inside the book. To have no blurb at all, and instead have 5 endorsements from important people, that was not what I expected. It irked me more when I saw the first page inside was also endorsements. I feel this book has the potential to sell out the first print copies, so I do hope the 5 endorsements go into the first page of the book itself, and a blurb finds its way into the back cover. As a reader, I think I’d want to read the book because of what it may hold for me inside, and not just because important people have praised it.

What I liked in the book is a very good pace. It had enough in it to keep me engaged and interested in turning the pages. The language, in general, is simple and lucid. I can tell that a lot of research has been done to bring authenticity to the court proceedings and dialogues etc. I liked Deepali’s character the most, which I guess doesn’t say much for the main characters. Maya, well… I applaud her character for showing bravery to survive all that she’s been put through And Harsh, I liked that he was willing to go the distance to defend and protect his client. I felt I could understand the decision that he takes, and the doubt that clouds him before he takes it. What the author also does nicely is to bring a villain that I hated; which is what a villain should do of course. Jograj has that “I’m the most powerful person here and you can’t do a thing about it” attitude that’s quite evident through the novel.

Editing was mostly good, but I did notice a typo error or two while reading. Not that it affects the read of course. I’m not that big a fan of legal thrillers, and I found the terminologies hard to understand. Though we get to know more about Maya through the sessions with Deepali, I felt it cut into the plot a little. I wanted the Harsh-Maya angle to continue. And on that note, I found the epilogue unnecessary. It closed out the characters from this part, but it’d have been more interesting to leave it at the last chapter with Maya fading away. There are threads that I find that still needs tying up, which I hope will happen in the next two parts.

I enjoyed reading the story, and look forward to its sequel.

In A Gist:
Positives: Pace, simple and lucid narration, extensive research
Negatives: No blurb, legal terminologies, incomplete threads

About the author:
Mallika Nawal is a professor-cum-writer. She is about to complete her doctorate in marketing from IIT Kharagpur. She serves as a Panelist on the WHO’s Network of Experts for Psycho-Social Working Environment in Developing Countries.


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

Book Details:
Title: I’m a Woman and I’m on Sale
Series: I’m a Woman Trilogy #1
Author: Mallika Nawal
Genre: Legal Thriller
ISBN/ASIN: 9789380619699
Publisher: Good Times Books
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.


Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills 2014 at Tales Pensieve.


(30th January, 2014)

Book Review: Baramulla Bomber, by Clark Prasad

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Thrillers are something that I love to read. If done well, they pull me into the plot, make me captivated and unable to think of any other book till I finish it, usually at one go. If not done well, it feels heavy and I can’t wait for it to end. As with any book, it’s the plot that makes or breaks a thriller novel, so when I read “science fiction espionage thriller” on the cover of Baramulla Bomber, it caught my attention. Not to mention, the cover itself was very nicely designed. When I read the blurb, I was wondering if it’ll be a good read, or has the author tried to do too much at one go.

The book is built around three characters: Mansur, an aspiring cricketer being investigated by intelligence agencies; his girlfriend Aahana who’s investigating a mountaineering accident; and Adolf, a Swede investigator who’s covering both of these together. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? After this, we’re taken through the thrill part. The sci-fi/fantasy part revolves around a mysterious weapon from the vedas, and takes you on an international journey to justify the details.

After reading, the first question I had the answer to was if the author had tried to do too much. I felt he had. To combine cricket with a weapon from ancient texts, take you across continents and politics was quite a task. It has been successful for the most part. The book has its share of suspense, but overall, I think the effect it gets is quite boring, especially in the starting parts. If you survive the starting part of the novel, I feel the middle parts are more suited to the pace of a thriller, and it builds towards the end. The ending itself isn’t the best, and felt hurried. The characters feel one-toned and not very memorable with little to no development, and the editing is below par, as with most Indian titles nowadays.

The book has the potential to thrill you, but it doesn’t exactly live up to that potential I feel. I hope the next book from the author is much more memorable for the story than the cover. This, for me, was a one-time read.

In A Gist:
Positives: Plot interest, cover design.
Negatives: One-toned characters, hurried ending, heavy beginning.

About the author:
Clark Prasad is an Indian author. He believes in conspiracy theories, and Baramulla Bomber is his first book. He currently works as a healthcare management consultant in Bangalore.


Rated a 6/10
Rated a 6/10

Book Details:
Title: Baramulla Bomber
Series: N/a
Author: Clark Prasad
Genre: Espionage Thriller
ISBN/ASIN: 9789381523971
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Price: INR. 395

 


This book was given to me for review by The Readers Cosmos. This is not a paid 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 2014 at Tales Pensieve.


(30th January, 2014)

Book Review: Kaurava (The Aryavarta Chronicles #2), by Krishna Udayasankar

kaurava_krishna_udayasankar

Sometimes a book comes along that makes you want to re-read it so you can understand it better. Govinda, the first book of the Aryavarta Chronicles was one such book. I did re-read it as well. The book was a good one, and it changed the idea of the Mahabharata in a way I didn’t like, yet liked. So I was quite eager to see how its sequel, Kaurava would turn out to be. From the first look, the cover design is absolutely enchanting and beautiful.

The characters, as expected, reprise their main roles from Govinda in the second book as well. Like the first book, the plot structure does something successfully, and that is to turn the story on its head. Dharma is no longer the picture of righteousness. He doesn’t get cheated into a game of dice. His obsession with gambling gets him there. For the purists of the great epic, this may be hard to take, but in its own way, the story feels right, feels more true and believable.

The characters are again, as expected, devoid of magic. This affects the plot in a lot of ways, the primary one being there’s no saving of Panchali when she gets molested. The narration was what saved the first book from being boring without the magic. Perhaps this book missed some part of that excellent narration, because it didn’t keep me interested for much of the book, even though the plot events are crucial ones. It felt stuck somewhere, felt a little heavy, a little boring.

The ending stages of the novel, however, still have enough pace and movement in them to ensure that I pick up the third book when it comes out. Did I like it as much as I liked the first book, Govinda? No. But I don’t feel it is a bad book that hurts the series. Maybe the author had an off-phase while she was writing this part, that’s all. Overall, I think I’ll keep it at the same rating as I gave to the first book as well.

In A Gist:
Positives: Cover design, characters, believability
Negatives: Narration felt heavy, and a little boring.

About the author:
Krishna Udayasankar is a graduate of NLSIU, Bangalore, and holds a PhD from Nanyang Business School, Singapore, where she currently works. This is her second full length novel, and second book in the Aryavarta Chronicles series, between her debut work Govinda and the forthcoming third book Kurukshetra.


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

Book Details:
Title: Kaurava
Series: The Aryavarta Chronicles #2
Author: Krishna Udayasankar
Genre: Alternative Mythology
ISBN/ASIN: 9789350096345
Publisher: 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 Indian Quills 2014 at Tales Pensieve.


(25th January, 2014)

Book Review: Uff Ye Emotions 2, Anthology Edited By Vinit K Bansal

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The genre of love/romance fiction is the most popular in India, I feel. The number of books that come out each year from Indian authors in the genre are proof of that. Another one to join that number recently is an anthology of love stories, the second of its series, Uff Ye Emotions 2. The book brings out 11 stories, one from a popular Indian author, who is the editor of the book, and the remaining ten from new authors selected from entries received as part of a contest.

I reviewed the first book here last year. I was hoping this book would be better than the first edition when I was approached by one of the authors in the book for giving a review. When something works, it’s logical to go with the same I guess. The cover design of this book is very similar to Uff Ye Emotions 1, except for the flaming numeral 2 to signify the second edition. Appealing design it is, to say the least.

I’ll try to delve a little into the stories without giving too much away. I’m going in the order I read the stories, and not the indexed order.

1. 120 Minutes (author: Saravana Kumar Murugan) shares the simple love story of a couple. The guy leaves early from work to avoid bad weather, only to get caught in it. Little things that usually don’t matter in such a situation still matter to him, and those things delay his return home to his wife. Knowing the author, I feel he could have made it better by showing the perspective of the wife as well. That said, there is a touch of his style in the work. No twists here, just a simple straightforward story that I quite liked.

2. Love and Sacrifices (authors: Heena Ahuja & Meghant Parmar) is written in flashback style. The character we are first introduced to, Kent, is an author who is writing a story, the true love story of his parents, how they met, fell in love, and decided to get married. His mother is Indian, and father is Scottish, so you can imagine the furore it would have created. I won’t get into more details. The story is quite nice, and I enjoyed reading it. Some parts aren’t very believable, and perhaps a change here and there would have sufficed to correct that. The story had a nice pace, and quite liked the poems in it too.

3. The Pale Pigeon (author: Siddhartha Yadav) is a bittersweet read. It is a love story, but brings out more than just a love story. It felt like it could have happened. It’s a family story of sorts, with the focus on the life of Richa and Mohit, an elderly couple. The thing I liked here was the realism touch, and that the couple stood through thick and thin. Nice ending as well. I’d have loved to read more about the couple and their love story, but more focus has been given to the family angle, which takes away just a little from it overall.

4. The Client (author: Vinit Bansal) is based on a real incident. I felt like I’d read a similar themed one somewhere before, not sure where. This is the story of Riva, a prostitute and her client, Chandrakant Malhotra. I can frankly say that this was much better than his story from Uff1. I liked it because it was different, and the love was quite clear at the end. The ending for Riva was bittersweet. But the prologue like ending for the story could have been done better.

5. Dilemma (author: Tarang Sinha) is one of my favorite stories in the anthology, for the reason that it explores a different kind of love altogether. The plot of the story is simple, and the ending isn’t unpredictable once the crucial incident happens, but the exploration of that dilemma and bringing out that love was something the author did nicely, which made the simplicity appealing, and that I loved to read. It made Ashima’s life alive through words, and I wanted to know more about her life after her final decision.

6. Moksha (author: Kunal Marathe) is different because the story starts with a court hearing. The character, Arshdeep Verma, has been charged with murdering his wife. At the court, he shares the love story as he tries to explain his actions. What I liked was the strong-willed character Arshdeep, and his interaction with his mother before the marriage. It was done right, with emotional blackmail and such. What I didn’t like was that the turning point comes too soon into the story. The love shown is of a strong one, and the ending is what matters, but the turning point still felt hurried.

7. NCERT of LOVE (authors: Udita Pal & Himanshu Chhabra) is the sweet love story of two kids studying in the 8th standard. A love story told through letters, and that focuses on first love and its innocence. A nice story which leaves me with a smile.

8. Hickey (author: Heema Shirvaikar) explores love and the ideas of it, first from the eyes of young Maya, and then her understanding as it grows. When her elder sister returns home for the first time after marriage, Maya finds bruises on her sister. But her sister shrugs them off as marks, stories of love that her husband gifts her, with a sweet pain. The story explores such fake ideas of love that are told to keep domestic abuse a secret, and sends a message out that it is wrong. A story to savor.

9. I’ll Be There (author: Ishani Malhotra) is the story of an unexpected love story that happens when Sheena and Sahil meet each other at a resort. It’s nice to read, with the girl playing hard-to-get, because she had just ended a relationship and didn’t want to jump into another one though the guy was handsome and charming. Oh, and the girl is a story writer as well. A nice read.

10. The Woman Who Waited (author: Shalini Katyal) is the story of Madhumita and Ashish, whose love blossomed from a deep friendship, till the latter suddenly broke it off and went away. The girl, refusing to believe the reason, still waited for him to return. I liked the story, but it felt eerily familiar. The poems are quite nice to read and the emotions were brought out well as well.

11. When Destiny Strikes (author: Mahi Singla) was a story I liked for the ending, a story about friendship as much as love. The events happen quickly, and are narrated well. I liked the character of Gunjan too.

I think, overall, this set of stories were better than those in the first book (which had just 2 or 3 memorable ones). The editing overall is also better in comparison to the first book, but still can be much better. One thing I didn’t like at all was calling it India’s most loved story book. It’s a good anthology, but not something that would replace beloved books like Chandamama, or Panchatantra or Tinkle etc. The stories explore different kinds of love, but are more straightforward in their approach. I think it’d be good for a journey, because the stories have enough oomph in them to keep you entertained throughout.

In A Gist:
Positives: Cover design, variety of stories, few memorable ones with takeaways as well.
Negatives: Mostly simple and straightforward stories; overall editing and grammar.


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

Book Details:
Title: Uff Ye Emotions 2
Series: Uff Ye Emotions Anthology #2
Author: Vinit Bansal (editor), Multiple Authors
Genre: Anthology, Love Stories
ISBN/ASIN: 9789380914756
Publisher: General Press
Price: INR. 140

 


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 Indian Quills 2014 at Tales Pensieve.


(24th January, 2014)