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Monday, August 28, 2017

Book Review: The Last of the Firedrakes (The Avalonia Chronicles Book 1): Volume 1 by Farah Oomerbhoy

Title: The Last of the Firedrakes (The Avalonia Chronicles Book 1): Volume 1
Author: Farah Oomerbhoy
Category: Fantasy Fiction
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Date: 2015
Price: Rs. 349/49 (kindle)
Pages: 416



Book Blurb: 16-year-old Aurora Darlington is an orphan. Mistreated by her adopted family and bullied at school, she dreams of running away and being free. But when she is kidnapped and dragged through a portal into a magical world, suddenly her old life doesn't seem so bad. 

Avalonia is a dangerous land ruled by powerful mages and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms--including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora's arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear.

With the help of a young fae, a magical pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within herself. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.
The Review: The story begins with an orphan girl Aurora Darlington's pitiable life story as a non-popular child, both at home and school and a repetitive dream. She longs for her birth parents as she is an adopted child, to free her from the current misery. Fate has other plans and her uncle brings her on a vacation to Redstone Manor. Her life would never be the same from this point on.  She is sold to a strange world here through a portal, one she knows nothing about. One thing leads to another in this mystical place where she is to discover her true identity, the meaning of her recurring dreams and discover her purpose, which is what the rest of the story is about.
Aurora is a regular teenager with no special skills but this new world asks a lot from her. Not just that this is where she belongs but her entire family was killed here once and only she was sent away into another world. Who wants to kill her family and why? Aurora learns her parents and herself are magical beings and she begins to understand her true identity. She must learn here to find her magical prowess and grow it, for her enemy is none other than the most cruel queen of Avalonia. Why did she start getting those visions about her parents? Who is Aurora? Will she be able to save herself in this new world and fulfill her purpose? To know all these layers of mysteries surrounding the story, read the book.
The books cover is aesthetic and gives you the right feeling of the backdrop making it perfect as a book of this genre should give you a mystical feeling right when you pick it up. As I began reading the book I loved the writers easy manner of writing almost immediately making me visualize the backdrop, though mystical and relate to the characters. The other part I loved at this point was that none of the characters were perfect or God-like without flaws as many writers aim to make them "too perfect" to be true, this one depicted them as natural and therefore one could relate to them. The setbacks were however that the story was an amalgamation of many most popular stories in the genre an orphan girl, the school of magic, even description of professors resembled Harry Potter the most. While on the evil side the powerful and ruthless queen, the travel portal and dark forces reminded me of Narnia and I was a little disappointed thinking this was it, its going to be a mix of all I have read so far. Nonetheless the writing made me kept going. 
Despite the similarities mentioned, the story has very unique magical elements and a very different plot from the books mentioned above and it was revealed layer by layer as the story continued. The fast pace of the book, never stopping at one destination and altering between highs and lows, easy and tensed scenes gives you a complete fantasy experience. To top it up there is romance, friendship and betrayal to keep one flipping. The editing is fantastic and writing once again vivid and descriptive giving you a visual experience. This book would be an amazing experience if it were an audio book. 
To conclude I couldn't put the book down and did nothing until I finished it. That itself sums up the review and makes you grab a copy immediately, doesn't it?
Tv show producers if you are reading this review, this is a recommended script to pick.  It is an incredible job on the writers part to deliver this quality of work as a debutante. I am anxiously waiting for the sequel. 
Rating: 4/5
About the Author: Farah Oomerbhoy is the international bestselling author of The AvaloniaChronicles. Her first book, The Last of the Firedrakes, was originallypublished on Wattpad where it gained nearly two million reads and aWatty Award. Since publication, her debut has gone on to win a silvermedal in IBPA's Benjamin Franklin Awards and the Readers' Favorite BookAwards, along with winning a finalist placement in the USA Best BookAwards. Farah loves the fantastical and magical and often dreams ofliving in Narnia, Neverland, or the Enchanted Forest. With a master'sdegree in English literature from the University of Mumbai, Farah spends her creative time crafting magical worlds for young adults. She liveswith her family in Mumbai, India.

Farah loves to connect withreaders. Find her at her website (farahoomerbhoy.com), Twitter(@farahoomerbhoy), Facebook (/FarahOomerbhoyAuthor), Instagram(@farahoomerbhoyauthor), and Pinterest (/FarahOomerbhoy).








Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Boy From Pataliputra by Rahul Mitra



Title: The Boy From Pataliputra

Author: Rahul Mitra
Category: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Fingerprint Publications
Date: 2017
Price: Rs. 295
Pages: 383

Snapshot: It is 326 BC, and Alexander, the barbarian king of Macedonia has descended upon Bharatvasrsha with a multinational horder of Yavanas, Pahlavas, Shakas and Bahlikas.
As the invaders advances relentlessly and wins bloody battles in quick succession, as local rulers fall over each other to shake hands with the enemy, and as the students of Takshashila University break into open revolt, one young man is faced with a terrifying choice, a choice that threatens to tear his carefully constructed world apart. For Aditya is the boy from Pataliputra, the boy who was once a reckless and carefree aristocrat, but who has now been forced to become a man with a purpose- to fight for honour and love. With a sweeping narrative and interesting everyday characters like the smelly old dhaba owner Tanku; Philotas, the unlucky Greek soldier; the no-non sense medical student Radha; Pandi, the hard drinking mercenary and the lovely Devika, The Boy From Pataliputra is not just the mesmerizing story of a young man’s growth to maturity, but also, equally, a story about the rise of a nation.

Review: The Boy from Pataliputra by Rahul Mitra offers a brilliant yet rare window into the 4th century BC- its people, power and glory by knitting a fictional character into the threads of an existing history. Places and names like Magadha, Pataliputra, Macedonia, Chandragupta Maurya, Chanakya and Alexander are etched in our minds and bloats up from the corridors of history in this book. The cover picture is designed nicely showing the boy- Aditya, a rebel with his horse Ashvaghosha depicting his extraordinary journey.

The protagonist- Aditya is a young reckless blithe boy who resides with his elder brother Ajeet. Ajeet stays perturbed for his younger brother’s future. One day misfortune and fate strikes hard on Aditya when his brother dies amidst political conspiracy. Ajeet’s acharya and best friend Navinda sends Aditya away to prepare for the hardships of life. They genuinely believe that he is strong enough to change the course of history. He leaves Magadha and heads to Takshashila in a caravan with Navinda’s trusty Pandi who is vivid, rich and outlandish. So when Aditya goes out into the real world, he is not familiar with its workings, and is often stumped by Pandi. With a character like Pandi, the author has explored a teacher-student and a father-son relationship. Slowly and steadily, Aditya’s talent blaze more fiercely as he encounter with life’s challenges. The author skilfully creates moments that are at once tender, funny and fragile. However, once the boy has his able to fathom the world around him, the plot virtually draws from him to Rishabh, Radha, Tanku, Charaka and the twins. The author has knitted a fantastic tail of characters in all these that takes his readers to the fun loving college kinda-young cool life. Rahul Mitra’s characterization is stupendous in a way that it successfully strikes the chord unfolding the story. And then, there is the beautiful Devika, the love in Aditya’s life. The author has done his reaserch well and it shows in his deep detailed writing. Be it the sword training or the Akhara fights or the horse race during Vasant Utsav that turned out to be a most pleasing moment. It’s written to be memorable.

When Aditya is facing and bracing with his own life, a great ruler Alexander is waiting to invade Bharatvarsha. At the same time, there is a rising uproar of students, monks and acharyas to rebel against King Ambhi for Utthisht Bharat (Unification of Bharatvarsha). The verbal showdowns by Acharya Chanakya, Acharya Pundarikaksha, Rishabh, Tanku and Radha enlightened by state of affairs, and Aditya shackled by responsibility are interesting. It’s an intriguing fraction recounting the biggest showdown of history- the fight between Alexander and Porus. The storytelling and narratives are strong making the stakes feel worthy and real with all the heroic overwhelming.

In essence the book is an interesting read and flips through the pages of history in a convincing way. It virtually plays out well and by the end leaves its readers almost daring to wonder how the course will occupy an entire saga after this for Aditya.

The writing and narratives are strong compelling its readers to stay hooked till you reach the last page. I would also like to appreciate the author for going through the meticulous research and introducing and knitting his characters so well into the story that it looked so real.

The book is written well, however the use of some modern day words like yaar, freebie and awesome along with few others seemed pretty implausible in the context and could be easily avoided.

If you’re a history fan and want to get mesmerized by the era once again, do read ‘The Boy from Pataliputra.’ 

Rating: 4/5

About the Author: Rahul Mitra grew up in Delhi and is currently working as an IT Marketing Professional with a multinational company in Mumbai. Passionately, interested in all things Indian, Rahul is vociferous in his opinions about India, its people and its culture. Like many other before him, he believes he can change the world and influence people through his writings.

Book Reviewed by Shaily Bhargava:
Shaily is an Equity Technical Analyst by profession and an ardent reader, freelance writer, book reviewer by passion who enjoys most of her jolly little life in her cocooned dreamland cooking up stories. Her short stories are published by online literary magazines of repute like Storizen, eFiction India and in anthologies like- ‘Tell me a Story’ by Penguin India and ‘The first Brush on the Canvas’ by Half Baked Beans. Shaily finds her strength in the 3Cs-Coffee, Chocolates and Candy Crush. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Harappa by Vineet Bajpai

Title: Harappa - Curse of The Blood River
Author: Vineet Bajpai
Publisher: VB Performance LLP.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Date:  2017

Price: INR 130/free (kindle unlimited)

Pages: 316

The story begins with the current time when a young business tycoon Vidyut Shastri is summoned by is dying grandfather Dwarka Shastri, to a land he was not supposed to visit, Banaras. The sudden summoning makes him tensed and suspicious as he was always to be away from the curse his family carries. The roots of the curse lie in the past, buried centuries ago in the most developed civilization unearthed, Harappa, justifying the books title. These two are the timelines on which the story majorly runs as Vidyut reaches Varanasi and is told about his true origins. In between the story is a small yet significant third timeline, somewhere in the not so distant parts of the 16th Century, when the secret was unearthed and attempted to be destroyed. The writer boldly trudges the story across these three timelines with a beautiful coherence of revealing the story, in a manner that the reader feels completely in sync with. This to me was the best part of the book. 

The secret has to do with Vidyut's most powerful and respected ancestor, one who was thought as "God-like", and is so dark that it brought then the destruction of the entire mighty civilization of Harappa. What is the secret? Why Vidyut was kept away from it? Why should he know it now? What led to the destruction of Harappa? To know the answer to all these intriguing questions, grab a copy.

The author has managed an interesting amalgamation of story of history, mythology and fiction which is revealed slowly as the story unravels, one layer at a time. The story writing is similar to that of Ashwin Sanghi's book Chanakya's Chant, with a level of complexity above it as the writer runs the story on a track of not two but three timelines as was the case with former. The writing is lucid, crisp and the story is enriched with complex emotions of love, brotherhood, hatred, lust and trust. The writer ends every chapter on a note that leaves the reader waiting for more. The icing on the cake is the description of Varanasi, which to a traveler soul like me who hasn't visited the city was a perfect delight. There are a few spelling errors which aren't major yet could be avoided and the end could have been less abrupt. 

Overall a delightful one shot read.

Rating: 4/5

        About the Author:

Vineet is a first-generation entrepreneur. At age 22 he started his company Magnon from a small shed. Today Magnon is among the largest digital agencies in the subcontinent and part of the Fortune 500 Omnicom Group. 

He has led the global top-ten advertising agency TBWA as its India CEO. This made him perhaps the youngest ever CEO of a multinational advertising network in the country. He has won several entrepreneurship and corporate excellence awards, including the Entrepreneur of the Year 2016. He was recently listed among the 100 Most Influential People in India’s Digital Ecosystem. 

Vineet’s second company talentrack is disrupting the media, entertainment and creative industry in India. It is the fastest-growing online hiring and networking platform for the sector. 
He has written three bestselling management and inspirational books – Build From Scratch, The Street to the Highway and The 30 Something CEO. He is an avid swimmer, a gaming enthusiast, a bonfire guitarist and a road-trip junkie. He is 39.

Balraj by Manoj V. Jain


Title: Balraj
Author: Manoj V Jain
Publisher: Notion Press

Genre: Fiction

Date:  2017

Price: INR 195/99 (kindle)

Pages: 150

This is the story of a man in his late forties, Inder, who has a decent lifestyle, having worked hard for it all his life but lacks fulfillment. He is in the middle of his life, the age where ones son has started working and one has a stable finance, yet life lacks satisfaction for there is an accumulation of all that was not done. All that was supposed to be different but it isn't. Like many of us at various stages of our lives, he too ponders over the roads not taken and the journeys not made, albeit too seriously. Then one day he just decides to take the plunge and go on those roads, he never knew existed with some planning ad some serendipity. The entire story is about his confusion, thoughts, journey and experiences.

The book is written in a very simple, lucid style. The first few chapters sketch the characters very effectively and one is able to visualize the events as they happen. This is where the book passes its first test of engaging the audience well. Beyond those words that the author has used to describe the feelings of the central character, one actually begins to live and think as him and this makes the reader travel with Balraj and take the journey. The book is not very heavy on philosophy as one might expect but it is just an alternate life path that the author paints for us to imagine and relish more than think. The reader lives more than thinks which is the best part of this book.

Does Balraj reach a destination? You have to read the book for that. Though I found the writer getting a little bold in the end with un-realistic almost bollywood movie ending, which was a downhill experience to this otherwise interesting pursuit.

Overall a good read, recommended especially for the journey he takes.

Rating: 3.5/5