Book Review: Sceadu, by Prashant Pinge

Fantasy is a genre that, for me, needs magic not only in the storyline but also in the narration of the novel itself. It’s that magic which endears it to the reader, and makes novels like the Harry Potter series or The Hobbit enjoyable. I’ve read very few in the genre from Indian authors who write in English, so when the author approached me for reviewing this book, I only slightly hesitated before accepting it.

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Sceadu (pronounced Shay-du, and meaning “shadow”) is a land discovered by accident, by a nine year old girl, Matilda (Tilda). She finds the entrance after reading a book she found at a used-book sale. Circumstances fall in place as her parents and aunt are called elsewhere urgently, and leave her, her brother Robert and cousins, Patrick and Steven home-alone. When her cousins refuse to believe her that Sceadu exists, she storms off to the land in a huff. When they notice Matilda is missing, her brother and cousins themselves enter the land to rescue her, battling the creatures of the land (Faeries, Imps, Goblins and Ghouls, led by Resolutus, the evil king). They come to know that a prophecy foretells that the four of them must win their battle against the magical creatures to stop their world on earth from being destroyed.

While I wouldn’t say that this book has magical narration in oodles, it has enough to complement the magical creatures and storyline. The idea of a land within our shadow was very interesting, and to have the clues to the land in a book was well done. The land, with its various kingdoms, and creatures kept me engaged once the story shifted to it. The character sketching of the four children was well thought. Adamant Tilda, who believes the land in a book, reminds me of Ginny Weasley in The Chamber of Secrets. Her reasoning and understanding of the land is crucial. Patrick and Robert are the egoistical ones, determined to play leader, but their love for Tilda trumps all other aspects of their character. And Steven is kind of like Dilton Doiley, not the leader but still, wise and helpful when the time comes. The idea of the whispering river was another thing I loved in the tale. Overall, I’d say there are lots of things to enjoy in this book.

The book that leads to Sceadu doesn’t play a big part, which is a let-down. I would have liked to know more about it, why it made Tilda attracted to it and such. There were parts that were a bit slow paced. These are the ones that happen away from Sceadu, like Evan’s explanations or when the parents are leaving or when the cousins are at loggerheads. While they matter to the story, they don’t hold my interest as much as the journey of the four through Sceadu and their meetings with the fantastical creatures. The land of Sceadu has many kingdoms, and their names and locations tended to be confusing. The map helps a little, but it’s not nice when one has to break the flow to go back to the map. And lastly, I’d say the boys were a little too hungry given the amount of food talk.

This book, for me, has more positive aspects than the negative ones, and is worth reading. The book will appeal to anyone who loves fantasy genre, old or young, but more to the children because as adults, we sometimes tend to analyze as we read.


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

Book Details:
Title: Sceadu
Series: N/a
Author: Prashant Pinge
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: B00NVCV0I0
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Price: INR 250

Reviewed for the author, in exchange for a review copy. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.


(26th December 2014)

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Book Review: Fire Under Ash, by Saskya Jain

The value of simplicity seems to be going down these days, at least when it comes to books. There is preference to deep set plots, depth in characters (to an extent that they seem out of this world), and a high level of English that makes it necessary to have a thesaurus nearby while reading. I do not mean to say every book needs to be run-of-the-mill stuff, but just that simple ones are rare.

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For that reason, this book, Fire Under Ash stands out because the book is, mostly, simple. It has a love triangle in a college, and a couple of other characters whose lives and decisions make the storyline. Ashwin, set for higher education abroad, decides on a whim, a fancy, an infatuation if you would, to cancel those plans and study at the college where Mallika, the object of the infatuation, studies. The move doesn’t sit well with the family or friends, obviously. Mallika is pretty; the lead singer of a band that played at Ashwin’s farewell, also soon becomes the object of another guy’s infatuation. Lallan also arrives at Azad College to complete his MA degree, but falls in love with Mallika even though he’s engaged to another girl. But can Ashwin and Mallika find their way with Lallan tagging along? On another angle, we see Ashwin’s sister Meera’s story playing out in New York, with a work vs love theme there.

The title and cover are what catch your eye immediately. Both are well thought of. The characters seem believable and not too fictional or out of the world. Though the idea is not new, the author manages to polish it well and keep the reader interested. It takes some time for the interest in the story to develop, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was boring. Good language and good detailing goes hand in hand here, but there are some details that feel amiss. It’s easy to imagine the scenes in mind.

A good debut work that manages to entertain for sure… but it’s a one-time read for me.


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

Book Details:
Title: Fire Under Ash
Series: N/a
Author: Saskya Jain
Genre: Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: 9788184005790
Publisher: Vintage/ RHI
Price: Rs. 499

Reviewed for Random House India for a copy of the book, but the views are my own, and unbiased.


(14th November 2014)

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Book Review: How to Become a Billionaire by Selling Nothing, by Aditya Magal

Most of us dreams of becoming a millionaire. Yes, becoming rich is something that interests most of us, if not all of us. So a book titled “How To Become A Billionaire By Selling Nothing” would make us curious to know what it is about. Some might take a peek hoping it’s a book with real knowledge on how to do that. Others might look at the blurb and read it for the humor aspect which the book seems to have.

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Imagine a guy with a big ego. Not something very hard to imagine, I’m sure, but the protagonist of this book will leave you bemused at the size of his ego. Now if such a guy were to be a billionaire, whose observation is that he is, in fact, the greatest person on earth, then such a character and his doings already gift you a smile. Get an eccentric, out-of-this-world entrepreneur to meet him, and things transpire. Like the entrepreneur assigning him a stake in his company that produces “nothing”. Can the egotistical billionaire deal with this predicament? Read the book to know.

I liked the cover design and the idea behind it. There is enough humor in it to make you laugh, or smile through the read. Sarcastic dialogues, puns and spoofs aplenty, this book is about our country, and the situations it faces. You tend to relate to the characters in some way, especially at what they do to get things done. I also liked the sketches in the book.

The character of the egotistical Jhunjhunwala is comical at the start; however his exaggerated “awesomeness” becomes very predictable and boring as the plot progresses. It slows down what starts out as a nice read.

The book would still appeal to some of the people who love to read humor genre I think, but not to all.


Rated a 6/10
Rated a 6/10

Book Details:
Title: How To Become A Billionaire By Selling Nothing
Series: N/a
Author: Aditya Magal
Genre: Humor Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: 9788184004342
Publisher: Ebury Press/ RHI
Price: Rs. 299

Reviewed for Random House India for a copy of the book, but the views are my own, and unbiased.


(31st October 2014)

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Book Review: God is a Gamer, by Ravi Subramanian

There is an expectation when a novel comes with a tagline “India’s No.1 Thriller Writer”. Ravi Subramanian’s novels usually deliver on that expectation, and when I got the book from Blog Adda, I was quite delighted to note that it was a signed copy.

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“God is a Gamer” was the title, and it interested me more because this is the first time the novel had no banking aspect in the title itself. The ones I have seen/read before have had that. “Bankster”, “If God was a Banker”… yeah, most of his books do have that. But the blurb and the start of the novel ensure that banking does play a part, and a significant one at that.

Head honchos of Mastercard and Visa take the help of an American politician to prevent the loss of their revenues in the Russian market. Later, when the American government is under threat from an online company, the politician asks the head honchos to return the favor and block that company from receiving online payments. These events set off others, seemingly unconnected and end up in the use of “bitcoins” – virtual money. Years later, that same politician is assassinated. Is it related? Adrian Scott is assigned to investigate there.

From Washington, the action shifts to India. The prime minister is headed to the US for treatment. The head of New York International Bank, Swami comes to know of a phishing scam that’s compromising multiple accounts. His boss, Malvika, offers him no help at all, and instead pushes the blame on Swami in front of the Singapore chief. When he sees things going against him, he turns to Aditya, an ex-employee of the bank for solace. Aditya now runs a small-time gaming company. On another front, Tanya and Varun run into each other at Goa, the former in town for a NASSCOM event. They run into each other again later, under very different circumstances. How are all these threads connected?

The first thing I liked was the cover. It was nicely designed. The story, even with multiple characters, maintains a decent pace to keep the reader engaged. With an assassination to begin with, it doesn’t surprise that that happens. The curiosity to know who the killer is, it keeps that sub-story going well. However, the immediate shift of setting somewhat diffuses the enthusiasm of a whodunit at that point. There are very few technical jargons involved; none that pull you down anyways. The short chapters keep the read crisp, and help the pace.

The short chapters, while keeping the read crisp, end up confusing the reader. One moment you are reading about the assassination in Washington, the next you are in India, and then back again. With two settings, it’d have been good if both were given narration at a length, and then switched. The short chapters also end up leaving the characters uninteresting because there wasn’t enough in each chapter for the reader to “connect with”. The twists, other than at the start, feel unbelievable and like they were there because one had to happen, not that it needed to happen. It was said to be the first bitcoin thriller, but there were very few mentions of bitcoins, and it felt lost.

While it has the characteristics of a Ravi Subramanian thriller, it’s not as good as it could have been. A one-time read at best; recommended for 3 or 4 hour journey.


Rated 5/10
Rated 5/10

Book Details:
Title: God is a Gamer
Series: N/a
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Genre: Bitcoin Thriller/ Crime Thriller
ISBN/ASIN: 9780143421399
Publisher: Penguin Books
Price: Rs. 299

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books! The views expressed in the review are my own, and unbiased.


(24th October 2014)

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Book Review: The Murder Bag, by Tony Parsons

Crime fiction is my favorite genre. To follow the trail of clues and bodies with the detective is fun, and if the book has pace in it to hold the attention from start to finish, then it is really satisfying. It was the title that grabbed my attention. I hadn’t read the author before, and the “link” between the victims as on Goodreads made me choose “The Murder Bag” by Tony Parsons to read.

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Three aspects of the novel are, to me, important in a crime fiction.

Detective: Max Wolfe, the detective, is a character I liked. Impulsive, confident and going purely on instinct, he doesn’t give a damn about chain of command or seniority. At some points in the investigation, these qualities do seem necessary. Even if these are considered to be the bad points to his character, there are admirable qualities to even them out, like being the best father to a darling daughter. Hard-headed and hard-hearted in work and loving when a soft touch is needed, I felt Parsons has given this character a good sketching.

Victims and motive: Initially the victims feel unconnected. But then, it is found that they are related by the posh, private high school they went to. The link opens up possibilities of who the killer might be, and helps the read to progress. The motive is the oldest motive in the book: revenge. And it works. It takes a while for the characters to develop and for this motive to become a possibility, but once it develops, the book is a treat to read.

Pace: The prologue and initial chapters start the novel off with decent pace, but it doesn’t hold through the read. It dips at times and then peaks again. It might not be something that would appeal to every reader, but the peak points, especially the confrontation between Wolfe and the killer, are well written, and exciting to read.

In general: Easy narration and a plot worth reading makes any book a success. This book is no different. I would have loved to see some better character sketching for the secondary characters, but other than that, I liked reading this novel. And I would read it again soon.


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

Book Details:
Title: The Murder Bag
Series: Max Wolfe #1
Author: Tony Parsons
Genre: Crime Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: 9781780892344
Publisher: Century/RHI
Price: Rs. 599

Reviewed for Random House India for a copy of the book, but the views are my own, and unbiased.


(24th October 2014)

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Book Review: Cockroaches, by Jo Nesbo

When I read and reviewed The Bat early last year, a reader mentioned to me that even though that wasn’t up to my expectation, other novels in the Harry Hole series would be better. I am not one to judge a detective or a writer by one book, so it was an easy choice to read this one in the same series.

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“Cockroaches” follows Detective Harry Hole as he is assigned to investigate the murder of the Norwegian ambassador in Thailand. The high profile death would have been important enough in itself, but to add to the circumstances, the ambassador was found in a motel room, a brothel no less, by a prostitute; events enough to make the front page of any newspaper in Norway. But with high profile killings come deep secrets, some that the family is reluctant to spill, and some that have to be discovered for the investigation to progress.

What any good crime story needs is pace. This one has plenty of that. It keeps the reader glued from the start itself, even with descriptions involved. Harry’s character seems different from the one in The Bat, but not a whole lot. The arrogance is still there, and it makes him the interesting character that he is, making friends and enemies as the investigation moves, bringing new characters for the reader to enjoy. The book might be a thriller or a mystery genre one, but it doesn’t limit itself to just “thrilling”. That aspect works as a flipside too, because the book feels slightly ordinary with the limited thrill. Maybe it is because the book is the second of a novel series, I found that it wasn’t as unpredictable. But I definitely think it was better than The Bat, which was too predictable. So there is progress in that regard. Another aspect to like is the realistic dialogue, with broken English given where needed. The one thing that could have been done much better is the ending.

I’m reading the series in order, so this novel seems a good read. For those who have read the later ones (the English translations were published in random order) in the series, this might not feel up to scratch. If you are reading it as standalone novels, then I think the read is definitely enjoyable.


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

Book Details:
Title: Cockroaches
Series: Harry Hole #2
Author: Jo Nesbo
Translator: Don Bartlett
Genre: Crime Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: 9781846554940
Publisher: Harvill Secker/RHI
Price: Rs. 399

Reviewed for Random House India for a copy of the book, but the views are my own, and unbiased.


(21st September 2014)

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