Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ode to the Year Gone By - 2017

I don't do this as often as I should, the year of 2017 has been a topsy turvy year. There were a lot of ups and downs. More ups that down though.

The biggest downer was that I definitely did not get to read as many books that I would like. I also did not blog as frequently as I would have liked. This has more to do with my inherent laziness rather than the lack of time.

Anyways lets bygones be the bygones. I got a similar plan for the upcoming year where I would like to read again 52 books this years, 1 per week. Similarly I would also like to post a blog review on every book I read here. I have not been as prolific as I should have been with the reviews, I post reviews for far fewer books that I have read.

Here are some of the quotes to prompt you to read on for the upcoming year.
  • “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
  • “A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” ― Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader
  • “Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” ― Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life
  • “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.” — Charles William Eliot 
  • “A book is a friend whose face is constantly changing. If you read it when you are recovering from an illness, and return to it years after, it is changed surely, with the change in yourself.”— Andrew Lang
  • “The love of books is a love which requires neither justification, apology, nor defense.”— J.A. Langford (This is my favorite quote)
  • “No matter what his rank or position may be, the lover of books is the richest and the happiest of the children of men.”— J.A. Langford
On a side note, I will like to invite Kavi & Krupa to join me on the read-a-thon of 52 books in an year and tag me on their reviews and posts.

Cheers bibliophiles have a great new year !!!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

SoulMate by Beenu

SoulmateSoulmate by Beenu VV
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SoulMate by Beenu

Beenu is my friend, I have known her for 10 years now. When she got published I was thrilled for her. She's an amazing person and like all of us she's had her ups and downs in life. We all deal with life in different ways, Beenu dealt with her bad hand in life by writing SoulMate.

I am so proud of you Beans. Knowing you, I can see shades and reflections of people we both know in the characters in your book, its like reading a slice of real people and that is what gives the book an amazing depth and emotional connect.

Ordinary people leading extraordinary lives. That's Ajanta for you. SoulMate is Ajanta's quest for finding herself in her life. Ajanta is a metaphor of all of those who are war with themselves over emotions, stress and depression. People who are battling an uphill battle and feeling the walls of life close in around them.

The sanskrit saying - शान्ति तुल्यं तपो नास्ति तोषान्न परमं सुखम् - ran through my mind as I was embarking the journey with Aju to find peace for her. It literally means - "There is no self purifying process equal to attaining peace of mind." Ajanta carved that peace of mind all her life, all her life she was on the path to find that peace and she went into depths of marital hell, deep depression and deep, unrequited love before she could make peace with herself.

The ending for the book came abruptly I was looking to read more about a positive and upbeat Aju, but the book did not conclude, it left the ending opening for the reader to write their own endings to Ajanta's story. That in my mind is the best positive ending anybody could have written. True the story between Aju and Ajay is unresolved, but the way is left open for the readers to answer those questions themselves.

SoulMate is a story of hope, positivity and change in a time when people are surrounded by negativity. You have done us all proud Beenu, now don't take too long to write another story, you have a lot to share with world my friend!!!

View all my reviews

Monday, April 17, 2017

2017 - Book 8 - Dark Matter

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Multiverse is a concept that is familiar to most comic readers, most of the comic book arcs have been based on multiverse. Recently the TV series The Flash also deals with it as the background.

Blake Crouch has taken that concept and explained it in a scientific twist. While in the aforementioned comics and TV series you need a super powered protagonist or antagonist who can access the multiverse, in Crouch's story anybody who can dispel the conscious/subconscious decision making process of the brain can access multiverse.

The story deals with multiverse in a rather elegant manner, the characters appear 3 dimensional and the emotions felt by them are far too poignant. Crouch has written a taut fast paced story, the plot starts with a bang and the race to get back to your world with a infinite numbers of worlds to choose from is a interesting and intriguing race. The addition of a passenger on the journey skews the probability of finding the correct world and it was a interesting possibility.

Where the book let me down was the last few pages. The end when it came was hurried and again the author threw a curve ball that I was not expecting, but as they say too many cooks spoil the broth, that is precisely what happened in the closing pages.

In the hindsight have written such a gripping and thrilling narrative there was not much that Crouch could have done to conclude the book without leaving the reader hanging. For the readers of Sci-Fi with a touch of action and adventure and a good thrill thrown in I would definitely recommend this book.

There are so few books that meet the bar in terms of plot, story, pace, narration and action that this is a no brainer, Don't miss

My Verdict: 4/5 stars
My Recommendation: Read It

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 - Book 7 - The President's Assasin

The President's Assassin (Sean Drummond, #5)The President's Assassin by Brian Haig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm... this book was a let down, compared to the high standards that I had for Brian Haig. This was more of a police procedural rather than anything to do with Sean Drummond.

I agree with Freda (my GoodReads book pal) about how the complexity and the intrigue level of the plot has gone down compared to the previous Sean Drummond books. Haig pulls the oldest sleight of the hand with this one. I think the author tries too hard to follow in the mold of James Patterson by trying to layer and multi-fold various plot points.

I am not too chuffed about Haig loaning out Sean Drummond to different groups willy nilly. Last book Sean Drummond was in the corporate sector, his efficiency & ruthlessness in dealing with Lisa Murrows murderers saw him get loaned out to the CIA this time around. It seems like all the government agencies are playing pass the cocky, rub you the wrong way, sarcastic Drummond.

I miss solid characters like Imenda Pepperfield and the military JAG court environs. Also in this book Drummond comes across as more horny than most of the other books put together and as such misses vital clues and hints which the author tries to setup as the big reveal for the finale.

As far as plots go, I am docking a star, coz the plot was basically Meh! There were probably 15-20 different ways the author could have done this if the ultimate objective was what the plot revealed.

Considering the books title, the President was not seen even in a single scene; all we heard about the man was from his mouthpieces, we never even saw any hide or hair of the great Gumba. So much for the President being assassinated.

The pace of the plot is frenetic and the story moves fast, it would have probably been better suited to a stand alone novel rather than one featuring Sean Drummond. The book carried the weight of the previous books in the series on it shoulders and sadly those shoulders weren't good enough to hold it up.

I am giving this one 3 stars only due to the affection that I have for Sean Drummond and the previous books in the series. It is my sincere hope that the next book in the series returns to its roots rather than casting Drummond out further in the sea.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

2017 - Book 6 - The Last Mile

The Last Mile (Amos Decker, #2)The Last Mile by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amos Decker # 2 continues the story of Amos Decker introduced in
  Memory Man (Amos Decker, #1) by David Baldacci
by David Baldacci . Amos is now an consultant with FBI. The plot is good, but swings all over the place, most of the twists could be anticipated and the story meanders through the different plot lines...

Some of the connections made are far fetched and the plot moves from the realms of plausibility to impossibility pretty soon. Too many characters are introduced left, right and center and there are too many variances. But Baldacci still maintains the page turning aspect of the novel which has always been the USP for him.

Amos Decker was setup as a memory man in Book#1 but other than recollecting information and throwing it back, there is not much character development for him. The Joint consultant group turns out to be dud with the other members not being of much help other than being in awe of Decker.

The official status of the group goes and comes twice or thrice within the book. Overall it was just a exhibition of how much Amos Decker can remember and regurgitate from time to time. The connections were out there for any novice reader of thrillers to make them and it was easy to find out who the mischief makers are.

I would have ideally liked to see some history of the parents that Melvin Mars had murdered. It would have been a nice addition to the story line, it would have helped understand some of the motivations for the stuff happening.

Overall the book could have been a bit more concise, Baldacci spent a lot of time setting up the characters and the plotlines that things appeared to be finished in a haste in the end.

Still I would recommend that the readers give it a lookie loo. It was not a total waste of my time - reading this book.

Friday, March 10, 2017

2017 - Book 5 - Private Sector

Private Sector (Sean Drummond, #4)Private Sector by Brian Haig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brian Haig is like a fine wine. He's maturing with each subsequent Sean Drummond books. I swear I like Drummond a bit more every series. Every Drummond book is a just a little bit more complex than the last, its like trying to solve a Rubix cube. All the pieces are there in front of you but they have to be put into the right places. They have to be aligned to get to the solution.

Sean Drummond as I said earlier is a wise ass true, but he's a nice wise ass. He's out of his comfort zone in this one by moving out of JAG cases to the corporate law side. The military says he needs to know how corporate law works.

In this book Haig delves into the murky relationship between corporate lawyers and companies. Drummond is out of his depth from the very first page when the Army loans him to a high flying corporate partnership. But he does not lose his pizzazz. He's the same wise cracking a-hole he was while handling criminal cases as he is while handling corporate cases.

The book opens explosively with Lisa Murrow murdered. 3 more women are brutally assaulted and murdered just when you think there is a serial killer on the loose, Haig twists the plot.

Everything is put together in the end but its messy. The shenanigans that's pulled in the name of investors, share holders and country leave you feeling a little dirty and a little bit in need of shower. Drummond pulls through in the end ensuring that Lisa is avenged but it is a close call for him. He almost succumbs to the pressure of choosing the nation over his personal thirst for revenge, but he finds a way out to keep both the parties satisfied while getting Lisa avenged.

Drummond comes across like a loser in most of the scenes. During a lot of the scenes I felt that Drummond was being dominated and he gave in alot easily than needed or did not come across as macho. Drummond gets the last laugh though. This book made me think about the importance of patience and waiting for the right opportunity to get things done. Drummond has it in spades.

I am a hardcore Drummond fan and I would definitely read the next books in this series.

My verdict: Read It

Friday, March 3, 2017

2017 - Book 4 - First Strike

First Strike (Dewey Andreas, #6)First Strike by Ben Coes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dewey Andreas is human. His encounter against ISIS shows him as a human being who is afraid and is less than a bad ass. He fears the brutality seen from them and almost begs for bullet instead of being beheaded.

The plot of First Strike is a chilling possibility. The idea of terror cells being able to strike deep in the heartland of America is distinctly possible as the recent lone wolf attacks in Florida and San Bernardo has shown us. The idea that a group of fighters trained and ready to wage guerrilla war cannot be denied.

The story of First Strike tells how America created its new worst nightmare. This time by establishing and arming ISIS. Meant to be a counter balance against the radical spread of Islamic Jihad, they inadvertently back the wrong horse and in essence hand over arms to a megalomaniac who is inspired by the American struggle for freedom and choose to carve out his own swatch of country from Iraq and Syria using the same methods employed by Europeans against the Native Americans in the early 1600s when they colonized America.

The difference between that time and now is the almost instant gratification that Internet provides. In those days news took months if not years to be spread across, the awareness was not as instant as it is now due to the spread of Internet. The daily dose of barbarism that has been propagated by ISIS has in turn galvanized and horrified the world simultaneously.

First Strike also marks a significant firsts for Ben Coes and Dewey Andreas. Most of the time the main characters in a series appear indestructible. They are Superman like but not in First Strike.

In this book Andreas appears human, he hurts, he bleeds and he even loses consciousness while trying to crawl through a tunnel that is all too small for him. It makes him fallible, he does not come across as this all conquering bad ass against whom no force of nature can stand. This is a distinct departure from how Coes has written about Andreas in past. In the previous books we have always known that Dewey will prevail because he is such a bad ass, but in this one he falters, he fears for his own life and he even has a moment of weakness where he tries to take the easy way out. I loved this book for precisely that reason, it made me like Andreas even more as a character and my respect for Coes as an author increased due to this.

That said I am docking a star for Coes showing a relationship between Dewey and Daisy, for Pete's sake she's old enough to be his daughter. What is this fascination with always pairing up the lead character? So many women falling over themselves to get Dewey. I would like to see Dewey evolve but even he should have realized by now that relationships are not his cuppa.

Every strong hero needs a very strong villain to prop him up. Tristan Nazir is one such villain. The man with a clerical slightly nerdy appearance exudes menace by his deeds. He's not a Jihadi, he has a bigger endgame in mind and is playing for keeps. All the gory stuff put out by this version of ISIS is keeping Tristan Nazir's end game in mind. I thank god that we are dealing with a simpler Baghdadi in real life who is no less of threat than a diabolical Nazir for whom I am quite sure the geo politicians of this world would have no answer in the current context.

First Strike is definitely something that is worth a read to the fans of breakneck action and kickass storyline.

2017 - Book 3 - The Seventh Plague

The Seventh Plague (Sigma Force, #12)The Seventh Plague by James Rollins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

James Rollins comes back to the Sigma Series with The Seventh Plague based on the biblical plagues from the times of Moses. What drives me to Rollins time and time again is the sheer plausibility of what he writes as fiction. It could be so easily be possible and real.

The action is as always Sigma style - big and bombastic. The pace is frenetic and the plot moves along smoothly. A pandemic is breaking out across the world and it has its roots in the biblical story of the plague that took every first born in the ancient Egypt during the time of Moses.

Rollins puts a scientific twist to the whole story, coming at it from scientific angle rather than archaeological and the story gels. Regular Sigma characters make their appearances, the story between Gray and Seichan moves forward, the riposte between Seichan and Kowolaski is perfect.

A couple of Guild assassins make an appearance, I have always wondered what happened to the lieutenants of Guild, those who were not caught when the principals were caught. Rollins seems to have some plans for them bringing them out in bits and pieces combating the advantage that Seichan grants Sigma.

I will not go into the plot as that would be counter intuitive, it is something that the readers should enjoy for themselves.

Overall I enjoyed the take on the Plague and the approach dealt out by Rollins seems far more plausible that Gods taking an interest on how the earth should be shaped, it places a lot more importance on us humans which I don't think is the case at all..

If you love Science and you love action adventure this is something that I propose you pick up and blaze through a quite afternoon when you have nothing much to do... Worth a read.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2017 - Book 2 - Ashoka: Lion of Maurya Book 1

Ashoka: Lion of MauryaAshoka: Lion of Maurya by Ashok. K Banker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The revised first part of the Ashoka Series of books from India's mythology man - Ashok Banker. This one provides a prequel of sorts to the Ashoka Lion of Maurya Book 2 which was previously the Book 1 of the series.

Much about the Chandragupta Maruya and Ashoka is lost to Indians. The history taught in schools cover only the very basics of the first Indian empire which laid the foundation of a united India. The architects of this great empire are lost to the common Indian due to almost 200 years of rule under the British empire the remanants of which is still felt today in modern India where we are taught more about the recent history than the ancient history. India still looks outwards for its role models than inwards towards the Icons that moulded it into what it is today. Names like Chanakya, Chandragupta, Ashoka, Radhagupta, Bimbisara have just become footnotes in the pages of history.

Ashok Banker seeks to revive the interest in these ancient figures with his retelling of Itihasa - History. Ashoka is the medium he has chosen to start his mighty effort. Much of knowledge about how Ashoka became the 3rd emperor of the Mauryavansha Dynasty is shrouded in mystery. There are some anecdotes about him propagating Buddhism throughout India after being enlightened post the bloody Kalinga War. But not much information is available about his rise to the throne. Bimbisara was known to have had 100 children and close to 500 queens. From this murky, back stabbing and politically charged environment Ashoka rose to prominence.

The first 2 books in the series lay the foundation for Ashoka's ascendance to the top. The politics and the backstabbing happening in the ruling elite is repulsive and intriguing at the same time. Banker seeks to keep the mystery going by throwing Ashoka in 1 perilious situation after another. The Book 1 & 2 end with Ashoka in a very perilious state - betrayed by those close to him and hanging onto his life by a thread.

There is enough facts blended with fiction in tale to allow for the liberties that Banker takes while depicting the courtroom dramas and the palace sex life. The books are spaced easily and make for a breezy read. Mythology has traditionally been Ashok Banker's forte and by blending history with his impeccable story telling skills, the interest is held as you turn page after page to find out how Ashoka triumphs over his trials.

We know Ashoka became the 3rd emperor of Mauryavansh, but if you did not know Indian history and are reading the books for the first time, you would be at the edge of your seat to find out just how the hero survives through a unliveable trial. Book 2 ends in a cliff hanger leaving you gasping for more, wanting Banker to have written just 1 more page to satisfy you that Ashoka has survived, instead you are left pining for Book 3 to release ASAP so that you can continue into this riveting journey with arguably India's most powerful emperor.

My Rating - 4.5/5.

2017 - Book 1 - The Midas Legacy

The Midas Legacy (Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase #12)The Midas Legacy by Andy McDermott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase adventure from the stable of Andy McDermott. When the series started with Wilde & Chase it was among my favorite series with lots of action and adventure mixed with archaeology. As time moved on, unfortunately the series character did not move on. The remained the same one-dimensional cardboard cut outs. Yes the story line appeared linear with Wilde & Chase falling in love an marrying, but the depth to the characters was missing.

With so many books released in the series, there was a real chance here for the author to expand on the characters and really allow the readers to relate to them. But I guess that's a missed opportunity. Nina Wilde is now a consultant and an author, she's famous but not very happy with her life. I really did not like how the character of Wilde has developed, she constantly bitches in the book, harangues her husband and is completely miserable with her life as a mother and a non-archaeologist. The character did not develop in my point of view, she came across as a person who took a decision and then decided to spread the misery of it to everybody around her. I would give Chase a medal for just putting up with her in this book.

Being a reader of all the books in this series, the plot was relatively easy to guess, the bad guys were not even one dimensional, the twists could be predicted from almost a proverbial mile away and the baddies were overtly buffoonish in their approach. Other than our lead pair, I guess everybody and their pet must have seen through the twists. As usual when Wilde and Chase are involved in their shenanigans some priceless artifact, site or piece of history gets utterly destroyed because the world is a proverbial hell and only Wilde and Chase have the moral compass to do the right things, the rest of the people are always selfish and utter b******s who like to destroy things for selfish gain.

The books are formulaic and can be read for escapism. I liked to read through the book to understand if I could guess all the bad guys before the author revealed them and then also guess the finale or the things that the lead pair would break or destroy on their way to saving a precious artifact which always ends up getting destroyed.

Overall I would give this 2 stars. I have read better from McDermott and would like to see him write some better ones in future.