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!

 

Delve into the depths of history with The Boy from Pataliputra by Rahul Mitra

About the Book:

The Boy from Pataliputra

It is 326 BC and Alexander, the barbarian king of Macedonia, has descended upon Bharatvarsha with a multi-national horde of Yavanas, Pahlavas, Shakas and Bahlikas.

As the invader 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-nonsense medical student Radha, Pandi the hard drinking mercenary and the lovely Devika, the Boy from Pataliputra is the mesmerizing story of a young man’s growth to maturity, but also, equally, a story about the rise of a nation.

My Thoughts:

Delve into the depths of history and a different phase in India’s story. The Boy from Pataliputra mianly focuses on Aditya Vikram, a young carefree, reckless boy, forced to grow up and learn the ways of life. It is a story of life, learning, finding a purpose, but this is not the entire plot. In addition, there is a deeper plot dealing with Alexander’s invasion of India. However, in this book, we are given but a glimpse of him and his army, focusing more on life in Takshashila.

It is evident that the author has done copious amounts of research before writing this book, ensuring that a lot of points are historically correct and also that the way of life is as accurate as possible. The techniques of sword fighting are also explained in great depth with a strong attention to detail. Of course, with the allowance of creative liberty and interpretation, there may be some differences in character sketches, even among the characters whose names we are familiar with. The author slowly introduces us to various well-known people like Charaka, Chanakya, Chandragupta, all at various stages of the story.

The story begins by introducing the reader to Aditya, his brother and the way of life in Pataliputra. When his brother is wrongly framed and hanged, Aditya is taken away from there by trusted friends and sent to Takshashila, with the advice to wait and learn. He is told that someday he might get his chance for revenge, but first he needs to prepare and live his life a little. As he journeys, he learns the meaning of hardship, hardwork and a way to deal with his new life. Slowly, we see him grow into a different and better human being, careful, and loyal. But as this progresses, we also meet Pandi, who takes over his training and responsibility for him, making him into the man he becomes. We also meet a number of people who are integral to this story and who compliment Aditya’s beliefs and support in bringing out his character.

As previously mentioned, though the major focus is on Aditya, the reader is given a glimpse into how the nation can rise and come together, into new beliefs and the advocacy of one country! The final Battle of Hydapses, gives us a glimpse into the invasion led by Alexander and gives us a taste of what is to come in the next books! The Boy from Pataliputra is a well-written story with some wonderful messages of learning. The story flows well and is simply written. It’s a refreshing and enjoyable read, not only for history buffs, but for those who would love to know more about a time in India’s history that isn’t generally touched upon in books!

Review: Two Graves by Zoe Kalo

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Title: Two Graves (Retribution Series #1)

Author: Zoe Kalo

Genre: Dark Psychological Suspense

Audience: New Adult/Adult

Word count: 18,000 words – 70 pages (short novella)

Launch date: October 1st 2016

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31840144-two-graves

Purchase on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Two-Graves-Novella-Zoe-Kalo-ebook/dp/B01LDIXCR0

 About the Book:

A Dante-ish descent through a sinister world of decadent shadows and woeful souls…

Seven years ago, he shattered her life. The town eventually forgot the headlines and the nightmares. But 23-year old music student Angelica hasn’t forgotten.

For the past seven years, she’s contemplated payback with as much intensity and unwavering faith as she puts into her violin playing. Finally, all the pieces are in place. Over the course of one night, disguised for a masquerade ball, Angelica orchestrates a journey of revenge.

About the Author:

A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery…

A daughter of adventurous expats, she’s had the good fortune of living on 3 continents, learning 4 languages, and experiencing a multicultural life. Currently, she’s working on a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature, which she balances between writing, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir. She is the author of the YA fantasy series CULT OF THE CAT.

Connect with Zoe Kalo on the web:

www.ZoeKalo.com / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

My Thoughts:

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I have previously read and reviewed Zoe’s Daughter of the Sun novel and I loved it immensely. So it only seemed fitting that I read this new book!

This fast paced novella is short and to the point. The plot is shrouded in darkness and sets the pace and tone right from the start. Angelica, the protagonist, is out to exact revenge and the story is set over the course of one day. A very accomplished violinist, she has the perfect plan or so she thinks. There are many references to Dante’s Inferno and the masquerade ball seems to be following the theme.

I found the story a tad bit difficult to follow when the author touched upon the past. That part of the story is a little unclear. It’s clear that something happened to the protagonist seven years ago for which she wants retribution now. However, the rest of the story is a well-written novella filled with some psychological suspense.

I loved the way the author sets the tone of the story and maintains it wonderfully throughout the book. It is easier to lose track of a plot line or plan in a novella as compared to a complete novel, but the author manages to keep on track. With all the pros and cons brought out, I do recommend this novella for all who like a good thriller. This is indeed a short read.

In conversation with Saurabh Garg

Saurabh Garg is the author of The Nidhi Kapoor Story. This is his first novel.
We have had the pleasure of interacting with him and here is what he has to say:
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1)     What/who inspired you to start writing?

I stumbled onto the entire concept of writing by chance. A friend told me about it. Then I started writing a blog. And I loved the feeling of words appearing magically on my notepad or on my screen. I got addicted to that feeling and before I knew, I was hooked on!

Plus, the fact that what I write, my thoughts, my ideas, could go to a larger audience made me take writing a little more seriously. One thing led to another and suddenly it was time to sort of take the plunge and write!

2)     Tell us a little about yourself.

Let me use a few sentences here. Actually 5.

I am from Delhi but live in Mumbai.

I am old but I still think like a 18-year old.

I want to just sit and write but have to go for a day job that pays my bills.

I want to stay rooted at a place but I want to never stop travelling.

I claim to a grammar nazi but I dont really have that strong a hold over my own grammar!

3)     What is your favourite genre?

Crime! And mystery. Lot of action. I am big fan of fast-paced stories.

And when not crime, I like to read biographies.

To be honest, I don’t get as much time to read as I hope to have. Whatever little I get, it goes in catching up on research for my next characters. So, I now get to read at most a book a week. Prior to taking up a job, I was reading upto 3 books a week.

4)     Which are the books and who are the authors you favour the most?

It’s a long list. The ones I can think of immediately are English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee amongst Indian authors. Gone Girl is brilliant. I love To Kill A MockingBird. I am a big fan of Alexandre Dumas and especially The Count of Monte Cristo. I also like the Jack Reacher series.

I know its an eclectic mix. Blame it on friends who recommend books and force me to read them.

Sometime back I made a list of top ten books. Its at http://septemberthe22nd.blogspot.in/2014/09/10-books-that-have-stayed-with-me-over.html

5)     What are your hobbies?

I like to drive. I like to read. I love playing poker. I wish I could get better at it though.

Oh, I love to travel and I love talking to people. Having said this, will any of your readers, in some exotic country, want to host me in their homes for sometime? I promise I will not be a nuisance 🙂

More than hobbies, I have recently started with these 6-month projects. I pick up something and try to spend 6 months on it. If something good comes out of it, great. If nothing happens, I move on to the next one. The next projects that I am keen on taking up are swimming, guitar, yoga, get fitter and running. It’s a long long list!

6)     Perfect holiday destination?

Damn this is a wrong question. Here I am trapped in office and you are asking me to think of places to travel. But since I’ve agreed to answer your questions, I think the perfect destination for me is the road. I love the feeling of being on the road, headed towards I don’t know where!

But if I were to choose a location, I’d say any place that is cold. Like Himachal. Like Panchgani; I love it. I can totally retire there if I can. I want to go to North-east but haven’t been there yet.

Or the Nordics.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit. Of the places I’ve been to, I’ve loved San Francisco, Prague, Copenhagen and London.

7)     Describe a perfect writing day.

A perfect writing day would start at about 5. I’d go for an hour long walk. While walking, I would listen to my favorite music. I would then head to the nearest Starbucks and order a Java Chip Frappuccino. Plug in my headphones to my music and write.

I would write till noon. I would then have my lunch, go home, sleep for a bit. Without any alarms of course.

Whenever I wake up, I would want to go for a dip in the pool but I don’t know how to swim. Its on my to-do list for 2015. Come back from the pool, head to Starbucks again and write till it closes.

Of course a lot of this is wishful thinking. I neither have the luxury of time, nor I have unlimited bank balance to fund those 200 bucks a pop coffees. But then, as they say, you never know. I may just have it some day!

8)     Which is the best part of writing a story?

The ability to play God has to be the best part. I also love that my characters can do things that I can never do. If I can’t get the pleasure out of doing things, I can definitely get borrowed pleasure of seeing my children (aka characters) live through those experiences and emotions.

9)   How much inspiration do you draw on from real life experiences, with respect to plot, characters etc?

A lot! most of my characters are inspired by real people. I may or may not know them though. I tend to remember interesting people that I come across and when I write, I try to think of those interesting people and then mould my characters.

When I say a character is interesting, I mean there is something quirky, something memorable about it.

10)   Who among the characters you created do you like the most and why?

I don’t think I can answer this one. Every character, large or small, is dear to me. It’s like asking someone to nominate one of the children as your favorite.

Having said that, I probably will become a very bad parent. Because I definitely like Rujuta more than the others! Why so? You’d have to read the book to figure out.

11)   What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

My stories? Impact on me? Fair bit. Like I said, I want my characters to do things that I can’t, I tend to get lost in those stories. So while working on the stories, I get emotional if my character does not get what s/he wants. I get happy when they find the love of their lives. I fall in love when they see the person that they know, they will spend the rest of their lives with. Hope you get the drift.

For me, my characters are everything! Stories, places, plots dont really matter. What matters is characters. Thats where I start writing and that’s where I end!

Book links:

Review: God is a Gamer by Ravi Subramanian

About the Book:

god is a gamer

Imagine a scenario where you cross this powerful virtual currency with a Gamer, Banker, Politician and a Terrorist. The result is GOD IS A GAMER – the worlds first Bitcoin Thriller.

A thriller which moves from Washington’s Congress to Delhi’s finance ministry, the beaches of Goa to the corporate boardrooms of Mumbai. A thriller set in a world where money means nothing, martyrs are villains, predators are prey, assassination is taught by the ancient Greeks, and nothing is as it seems.

God is a Gamer is author’s personal favourite. A lot of effort has gone into researching the minor details to make sure that you enjoy every page of this thriller. As they say, a good thriller is one where the page turns by itself. Hope the pages of God is a Gamer turn by themselves and the book stays in your hand imploring you to finish it before you put it down.

About the Author:

Ravi Subramanian is India’s numero uno thriller writer, having written six bestselling books. An alumnus of Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore), he is currently head of a leading financial institution. A career banker and financial services professional, Ravi has worked with various multinational banks (Citibank, ANZ Grindlays Bank and HSBC) for over eighteen years. As a result of his extensive background in foreign banks, writing about banking comes quite naturally to Ravi. Each one of his books thus far have been set in the backdrop of a foreign bank.

 My Thoughts:

I received this book via Blod adda in exchange for an honest review and I really enjoyed this book from the moment I started reading it. This is the second book I have read by Ravi Subramanian and I believe this book is as different from the previous as it is wonderful to read.

God is a Gamer is a story of revenge, a story that touches upon the various emotions of betrayal, trust, lies, love and family. The story starts off with the murder of a high profile person in America. The prologue introduces us to a discussion between the President of Mastercard International and the CEO of Visa International followed later by the emergence of Wikileaks and its impact on the US Government. The author then talks about the existence of virtual money called bitcoins, slated to be the future of money and thus is formed a plot that will turn the world upside down. An explosion that kills an American Bureaucrat has the FBI running around trying to solve the case as soon as possible.

In India, a prominent banker, Malvika dies by falling off a rooftop at a party held in her house which raises quite a few doubts. Aditya Rao owns a small gaming company that suddenly becomes well known all around the world once Varun joins the team. There is a lot of internal politics that arises within the Bank where Malvika worked and the author has drawn this out beautifully. The concept of virtual money turns out to be a part of a darker plot and the internet doesn’t seem to be such a safe place anymore.

Ravi Subramanian has woven a master plot that will keep you hooked till the end. Throughout the story, he will keep the reader guessing, wondering what is going to happen next. The author manages to keep the suspense till the very end when the entire plot unravels in a brilliant ending. This story is as much an expose on how various agencies around the world function as it is an in depth analysis on how people think. The base plot is strong and the sub-plots help in strengthening it.

The style of writing is wonderful and the author keeps up a good pace throughout the story without losing track. I particularly enjoyed all the information he has incorporated regarding Bitcoins which shows just how much research has gone into writing this story. I love the characters he has created and the way each one has an important role to play. In the end every loose thread is tied up and the whole plot is laid as the author ends the story in style.

All this boils down to a fast paced thriller that will have the reader on the edge of their seat reading until the very end without a moment’s pause. The reader will keep turning the pages of the book just to know what happens next. The way the author has indirectly said that God is indeed a gamer and we are all just a part of his game is a brilliant take on how this world functions This is a must read for all fans of thrillers and mysteries.

 

 

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