Review: The Rise of Sivagami by Anand Neelakantan

About the Book:

The Rise of Sivagami (Baahubali: Before the Beginning, Book 1)

Blessed by the sacred Gauriparvat, Mahishmathi is an empire of abundance. The powerful kingdom is flourishing under its king, who enjoys the support and loyalty of his subjects, down to his lowly slaves. But is everything really as it appears, or is the empire hiding its own dirty secret?

Orphaned at a young age and wrenched away from her foster family, Sivagami is waiting for the day she can avenge the death of her beloved father, cruelly branded a traitor. Her enemy? None other than the king of Mahishmathi. With unflinching belief in her father’s innocence, the fiery young orphan is driven to clear his name and destroy the empire of Mahishmathi against all odds. How far can she go in her audacious journey?

From the pen of masterful storyteller and bestselling author Anand Neelakantan, comes The Rise of Sivagami, the first book in the series Baahubali: Before the Beginning. A tale of intrigue and power, revenge and betrayal, the revelations in The Rise of Sivagami will grip the reader and not let go.

My Thoughts:

I am sure all of you out there have watched Baahubali 1 and 2. Most of us have come to love the characters but as with most movies, we do not get to know some of the characters well. In this case, with the focus of the movie plot on Baahubali (first the father and then the son – who share the same second name), we are introduced to some very strong and compelling characters about whom we don’t know much.

This book, the first in a trilogy, seeks to close the gaps and give us an insight into those characters who definitely need to be explained. The major questions of – Who are they? Where are they from? How did they get to where they are today? – are brought up and the author seeks to give us the answers.

Sivagami, the strong-willed lady, who is ruthless with her decisions, is a woman who brings out the curiosity in people. Since the movies do not give us anything about her or how she came to be the Queen, this book tells us her story. A girl from humble beginnings, with a thirst for revenge, Sivagami is portrayed as head strong and determined. She takes her time to plot and plan, showing us the strength and cunning in her nature while at the same time, we are shown how much she cares for her friends and can go to any length to protect them.

The book also talks about Kattappa in his youth, at a time when he is just starting out, along with intricate details about his life, his father and brother. It is a completely different person that we are shown, which might take you by surprise, but remember, he is still an unsure youth, trying to understand and find his place in the world. His part of the story, running parallel, talks about his struggle to accept the way the world is.

This prequel has a lot of subplots and twists, bringing out the darkness of the times and the conspiracies and corruption behind the doors of the kingdom. Everyone has an agenda and something to hide. The characters are all portrayed in shades of grey, making us believe that they aren’t as bad as they actually are. Though the story is well written, there are many times when many of the characters introduced do not inspire empathy, in-spite of the dire circumstances. There is so much that seems to be cluttered together into this first part. It feels more like a rant on the system than a portrayal of emotions that arise due to the circumstances, with the nobles and the slaves, and then those who take advantage of and abuse their power!

Pushing these flaws to the side, the story has immense potential and brings out a feeling of nostalgia and a slight sense of satisfaction of knowing who these characters are. Of course, this is just the beginning, there is more to come!

 

Review: The Vegetarian – Han Kang

Written by Han Kang, The Vegetarian has been translated into English by Deborah Smith.

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Before my wife became a vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.

This is how Han Kang’s second work available in English begins. The Vegetarian, a tale in three parts, follows Yeong Hye’s decision to become a vegetarian following a recurring dream. Each part is narrated from a different first person perspective. What starts off as a seemingly innocuous transition in dietary habits slowly evolves into a frightening tale of deprivation.

The first part, ‘The Vegetarian’ is narrated from the perspective of Mr. Cheong, Yeong Hye’s husband, a laid back person with a predilection for an unremarkable lifestyle. This part of the story traces his struggle to reconcile his dormant wife’s rapid transition from a docile housewife to a strong, aloof vegetarian who refuses to consume meat. He makes multiple attempts to try to restore normalcy, first through subtle coercion and then by involving her family.

I think that this part stands out because of Kang’s ability to subtly bring out the characteristics of a patriarchal society and its inability to deal with concepts such as mental health. This is epitomized in Cheong’s reaction to his wife’s deteriorating physical state as her paranoia becomes worse. He comments, in two separate instances,

“In any other case, it was nothing but sheer obstinacy for a wife to go against her husband’s wishes as mine had done”

“I resisted the temptation to indulge in introspection. This strange situation had nothing to do with me”

The ability of these simple sentences to paint a clear picture of a typical self-centred patriarch should not be underestimated. To deal with an issue which is often the subject of verbose description with pleasing brevity that doesn’t eschew clarity is something anyone reading this book should look out for. Towards the end of this part, Yeong-Hye attempts to commit suicide following her father’s attempt to feed her meat forcefully.

 The second part, ‘Mongolian Mark’ is written from the perspective of Yeong-Hye’s sister’s husband. He is an artist, largely dependent on his successful wife’s business. This section of the book is arguably the best portion of Kang’s work. The narrative starts off after Yeong-Hye’s suicide attempt and her subsequent divorce from her husband. ‘Mongolian Mark’ sees Yeong-Hye eschew other facets of ‘normal life’ as she continues to be haunted by dreams which she attributes to her life as a non-vegetarian.

In-Hye’s husband develops a strong attraction to the idea of using Yeong-Hye as a subject in his artistic work. The narrative entices the reader with several sexual overtones, coupled with an insight into an artist’s obsessive, consuming drive to consummate the ideas which float in their head. Readers should look out for this conflict between propriety, sexual desire, and artistic drive. A portion which stands out for me is the short incident of marital rape which occurs, when In-Hye’s husband, driven by visions of his desire for Yeong-Hye forces his wife to have sex with him, even as she cries.

“She might have lain there sobbing for hours in the darkness. He didn’t know”

“But the next morning, she hadn’t acted any different from usual”

The questions this part raises, about the validity of consent from individuals who are struggling with disabilities and marital rape are not only relevant questions but are dealt with in a manner which seems driven towards introspection, as opposed to impact. In my opinion, this is what truly makes ‘The Vegetarian’ a riveting read.

If this is not enough of an endorsement of Han Kang’s work, the promise of an equally excellent third part ‘Flaming Trees’, told from the perspective of In-Hye should appeal to you. In-Hye, the woman who seems to epitomize the catch phrase that ‘women can have it all’ goes through a gamut of emotions as she deals with her divorce and Yeong-Hye’s deterioration in an institution.

What stands out about ‘The Vegetarian’, is the ability to use a relatively terse storyline to effectively tell a compelling story and illustrate pertinent social issues, thus making it a book that should grace your bookshelf.

Book Review: Dominick and the Dragon by Anne K. Edwards

Dominick and the Dragon, by Anne K. Edwards

Age level: 4-8

Price: $1.99

Pages: 42

Find on Amazon

 About the Book:

Dominick is a little boy fascinated by dragons. When he finally meets one named Elvis that wants to eat everything, including him, he has to find a way to outsmart him. His adventure proves a boy can be smarter than a dragon.

About the Author:

Anne K. Edwards enjoys writing tales for children when she’s not focusing on a mystery. Some stories are ideas taken from little misadventures of her cat who actually did fall off the porch and land on a large blacksnake as it was sunning itself. Both were more than a little surprised.

My Thoughts:

Dominick and the Dragon is a short and enjoyable read! It brings to us the small adventure of a boy named Dominick as his dream of meeting a dragon comes true. The dragon however, doesn’t exactly turn out to be how he had expected and he is faced with the need to outsmart the dragon!

Filled with fun illustrations to enhance and support the story, the book is a fun read and will show children that if they try to think differently, they can find a solution to most things.

Check out Serenity Harbor: A Haven Point Novel by RaeAnne Thayne

About the Book:

Serenity Harbor

Computer-tech millionaire Bowie Callahan is about the last person that schoolteacher Katrina Bailey wants to work for. As far as she can see, he’s arrogant, entitled, and not up to the task of caring for his young half brother, Milo. But Kat is, especially if it brings her closer to her goal of adopting an orphaned little girl. And as her kindness and patience work wonders with Milo, she realizes there’s more to sexy, wary Bo than she’d ever realized. Bo never imagined he’d be tasked with caring for a sibling he didn’t know existed. Then again, he never pictured himself impulsively kissing vibrant, compassionate Katrina in the moonlight. Now he’s ready to make her dream of family come true … and hoping there’s room in it for him, too …

My Thoughts:

This is a light hearted romance novel, which brings out the importance of understanding and love. The story follows Katrina, a school teacher who is fighting her own battles to adopt an orphaned girl. In the meantime, she meets Bowie and his younger brother Milo, and the child takes a special liking to her. She takes on a job as his nanny temporarily as she waits for the adoption to fall through. As the story progresses, we get to know more about the principal characters and their lives, who they are, and how they came to be where they are at present.

The plot is simple enough and the characters are pleasing to read about. The story moves quickly and as expected, Katrina and Bowie develop feelings for each other. However, what is different, is how they handle it and react. It’s beautiful to read about characters who put their goals and their people first, showing us their strength and state of mind. The best part of the book is how the author handles Milo and how the child grows into a more open and confident individual.

The story may get a little cliche in some places, but it is to be expected and frankly can be enjoyed as it is! A quick and simple read in the romance genre that most people will enjoy especially as a holiday romance read!

Book Review: Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee

I was provided with a copy of this book by Hideaway Fall publishers in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

Broken Branches

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

My Thoughts:

Wow! This is an intense emotional roller coaster, that will hold your attention until the end. The story is well-written and the beauty of it is that the author doesn’t give away anything until the very end! It proves to be impossible to predict the direction the  story will take and is even more difficult to figure out what is real and what is not! The title of the story becomes clear by the end and is quite apt according to me.

The story follows Ian Perkins as he tries to find out more about his family and it’s history, tracing back along the years while trying to prove the existence of a legendary family curse. The reason behind this need becomes clear only after the reader has completed the book! We are also introduced to Rachel, Ian’s wife who doesn’t believe in the curses’ existence and their adorable son Harry, who seems to have boundless energy. The emotions run deep and the descriptions are vivid, sometimes giving the reader chills at the end of it.

The author sets the tone of the story right from the first page as he describes the cottage, the iconic tree and the various people who have resided in this place. Chapters alternate between the present times and the past, introducing us to various people who were a part of or influenced Ian’s life. The author expertly describes the mental stability of his characters and brings out their thoughts and emotions, thus making it hard for the reader to completely judge until the end.

Hold on to your seats and emotions as you are in for an interesting and thought provoking time with this book! It is worth the read, touching upon some rather pertinent topics related to family, relationships and a persons psyche as a result of tragedy as the truth comes out.

Bernie and the Wizards by Steve LeBel – Releasing soon!

The mail just brought in my very own signed copy of Bernie and the Wizards (sequel to The Universe Builders – Bernie and The Putty), written by Steve LeBel!

It was an honor to be a part of his Beta reading program which was an interesting experience.

About the Book:

Gods vs. Wizards ~ an epic struggle for survival

Bernie fixes broken universes for a living. Unlike other gods, who tend to take a hell-fire-and-brimstone approach to problem-solving, Bernie prefers a more gentle approach.

Bernie’s job is to restore production on the planet Photox, but he soon discovers a world caught up in a civil war. With a hard-to-please boss breathing down his neck and a personal life in desperate need of relationship advice, Bernie’s chances of success are dwindling fast. The gods on Bernie’s world are no help. If he fails to restore production, they will destroy Photox’s entire population.

Bernie is desperate to keep this from happening, even if the murderous wizard causing all the problems is powerful enough to hurt a god…

 

Find out more on the website

Look out for my review of the book which will be posted soon!

In the meantime, do check out my reviews for The Universe Builders – Bernie and the Putty and Bernie and the Lost Girl.

 

Join Leopold Blake on his thrilling adventure in Panic by Nick Stephenson

About the Book:

Panic

Swift. Silent. Deadly.

Leopold Blake, expert criminology consultant for the FBI, had his weekend all planned out – and it didn’t involve dealing with a murdered senator, a high-profile kidnapping, and at least three near-death experiences.

Three politicians have been murdered in as many weeks, all expertly dispatched, and only Leopold can get to the bottom of it. Unfortunately, as all hell breaks loose on the streets of New York City, he soon finds himself the next target of a powerful enemy who wants him silenced. Permanently.

Against a backdrop of political corruption and murder, Leopold and his team must fight for their lives to uncover the truth before it’s too late.

My Thoughts:

This book is  the second in the Leopold Blake series and is a fast-paced thriller. There is an ongoing murder investigation and Blake is called in to consult.  It is interesting to read about how his mind works and how he works with people. Being rich and having access to everything he wants, he sometimes takes advantage of his position and power! His bodyguard, Jeremy is a tough and interesting guy who ensures that he always has Blake’s back. Bring in a police detective and a civilian, and the author gives us a random mix of people, who are unlikely to meet, let alone work together under normal circumstances.

Though the story flows very well and the plot is well thought out, at times it felt as though the deductions were too easy and that Blake doesn’t have to put in too much effort to solve things. This makes it a little unrealistic to read about. However, putting this aside, the way the story is written is intriguing, making it difficult for the reader to figure out what is going on before the characters in the story do. The story has a lot of action, and adventure in it, with the characters racing against time to catch the culprit. The characters are mostly well developed, though at times they tend to behave in ways that might be difficult for the reader to relate to, but they are deep and complex overall.

As they race against the clock, so does the reader, as we turn page after page to quickly understand the plot and the meaning of the title “Panic”. This book is definitely worth the read for those who love a good mystery thriller!

Enjoy the ride with Crossline by Russ Colchamiro

About the Book:

Hotdog pilot Marcus Powell has been chosen to test Taurus Enterprises’ prototype craft Crossline and its newly developed warp thrusters. But during the flight something goes incredibly wrong, forcing Powell into a parallel universe.

Soon after he lands on that strangely altered Earth, Powell reluctantly teams up with a trigger happy rebel leader, a pot-smoking shaman, a crafty pie-maker, and a weary solider who hates his guts — all to survive an epic battle he may have been destined for all along!

Meanwhile, back home, reclusive oil tycoon and Taurus CEO Buddy Rheams Jr. — who sent Powell on that very mission — has a mysterious past and a secret agenda, one that could prevent Powell from ever making it back to his wife and little girl.

From author Russ Colchamiro, CROSSLINE is the exciting tale of two ambitious men — and two mirror worlds — linked across time and space in a way neither of them could ever have imagined.

Because once you’ve crossed the line, can you ever really go back?

For the CROSSLINE book trailer, visit: youtu.be/mJ8fey7_4VA

My Thoughts:

Crossline will introduce the reader to a world of space travel, wormholes and parallel universes. A well-written novel, it proves to be entertaining as well as interesting in concept and nature. The story revolves around the concept of adventurous time travel and warring communities.

How does a person deal with an alternate reality to his original one? How is one sure that the people they have left behind are still waiting for them? How do we deal with the existence of someone just like us, just in a different reality?

Marcus Powell, who takes off in a space ship, out to test the new technology of warp thrusters, finds himself entering a wormhole and ends up on an “Earth” that’s not his “Earth”. We are then taken along on his journey of understanding and acceptance as he tries to wrap his head around the unimaginable. In parallel, we are introduced to Buddy Rheams Jr., a man shrouded in mystery and responsible for the existence of the space ship – Crossline. The story brings out the similarities and differences between many of the characters central to this plot.

The author brings to us highly advanced technology, in this delightful story, with well developed and complex characters who do know how to “CHILL” ! A lot happens in the story running with parallel lines and situations, culminating in the end. Jesse, Powells’ daughter is an entertaining child who adds color to the story and brings out how the concept of spirituality and belief can make a large difference.

Overall interesting and entertaining, Crossline is worth a read!

Becoming Assiya – The Story of the Children of War by Simran Keshwani

Title –  Becoming Assiya – The Story of the Children of War

Author  – Simran Keshwani

Genre – Dystopian Fiction

eBook Published at – VoiceVerso.com

About the Book:

“The Past is always in a discordant love with the present. And it is upto us to unleash its secrets, and learn from it, not repeat it.”

Becoming Assiya is the story of a misplaced Syrian refugee and her trial with a past of Blood, wounds, War, Doubt and Hatred and the troublesome Hope of a better tomorrow. The woman’s journey encompasses through the landscape of Wartime Syria, through her mother’s journal and the rebuilding of a Post War identity for a land washed with blood, and what it meant to be alive, stuck in the middle with No Identity and Struggle, two complex concepts intermingle in this book and intersect at a common point, that of finding yourself.”

The book is available for purchase on:
1) Amazon (Kindle ) USA
2) Amazon (Kindle) India
3) Kobo
4) Barnes & Nobles
5) Smashwords

Find the book on Goodreads

About the Author:

Simran Keshwani, 20, is a Final Year literature student at the Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi and has been engaged in social activism. She plans on changing the world, one word at a time.

Follow Simran:

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Goodreads

About Voice Verso:

Voice Verso is  an innovative Startup that provides eBook Publishing & marketplace for authors.
Using their proprietor DIY (Do it Yourself) Drag & Drop flipbook based writing canvas, authors can interact & publish their eBooks & sell them online. If you wish to try out the platform and kickstart your eBook Publishing journey, you can request an invite

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Enjoy and learn with this well illustrated children’s book, Martha the Blue Sheep by Gabrielle Yetter

Note: I was provided with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

Martha the Blue Sheep

When an accident made Martha’s coat blue, her world turned upside down. She was no longer like the rest of the flock. She stood out and she didn’t like it. She wanted to fit in.
But a series of surprising events and the help of an unexpected friend showed Martha that being different could be a blessing, not a curse.

Martha, The Blue Sheep is a story about acceptance, tolerance and diversity. It’s a charming story to inspire children not to be just one of the flock, but to celebrate being an individual who brings richness and colour to the world.

Find the book on Amazon

Check out the author’s website for more information.

My Thoughts:

Martha the Blue Sheep is a short and charming story of how being different is not a bad thing. The story is interspersed with wonderful images that bring the text to life. The writing is simple and easy to understand and trust me, it is a fun read! The author brings out the importance of accepting a person as they are, even if they are different in some way. She emphasizes on how it could be harmful, especially in today’s world, with the innate need to fit-in, leading to loss of self-confidence.

This is a great way to teach children these important lessons and to engage them through colourful pictures! This book is definitely worth the read and is important not only for children but also has a message that as adults, we can take away and apply.