Friday, 24 October 2014

Book Review: God Is A Gamer by Ravi Subramanian

(Image Source: Google)
Book Name: God Is A Gamer
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Publisher: Penguin Books India
Pages: 310
Price: Rs 299/-

Boldly embellished in gold above dark clouds hovering over Washington’s Capitol building, Ravi Subramanian proclaims aloud God is a Gamer. To further the amp quotient, the author casually underplays the drama around an age old question- ‘Is revenge a crime?’ I say underplay for it is only towards the end that he unveils his grand scheme, a scheme that is all about vengeance subtly pushed to the corner amidst the grander scheme of suspense and story-telling. Does Subramanian’s God is a Gamer live up-to your expectations? Does the book capture your interest and keep you hooked to its pages? Let’s find out.

The Plot
The story begins in the power houses of New York where we witness a certain drama unfolding as powerful businessmen and an even more powerful Senator indulge in games of manipulation. Their ambitions yet unclear, the prologue is an unfurling of the play to follow- a play that revolves around the vision of a certain unknown Satoshi Nakamato and his dream of a virtual currency in an anonymous world. When Senator Gillian Tan is killed in a car explosion at the Washington DC and one of India’s leading banks falls prey to a phishing scam, the two seemingly disconnected events seem to bear no relevance to each other. Special Agent Adrian Scott of the FBI is called in to investigate the murder of the Senator and meets a series of dead ends. As the NYIB is dealt another blow in the form of an ATM heist, the FBI finally makes a breakthrough and Adrian Scott realises that the corridors of power are much more complicated than they seem.  When Nikki Tan, wife to Gillian Tan, is attacked in her own house, Adrian Scott uncovers a certain ring with a ‘Bitcoin’ private key etched on the surface.

 In India Malvika Sehgal, the head of NYIB, commits suicide and Aditya Rao’s company eTIOS is thrown into chaos after the ATM heist. Tanya, Malvika’s daughter, is convinced that her mother has been murdered.  As Aditya’s long lost son Varun takes the reins of his father’s gaming company IndiScape, the suicide of Malvika Sehgal gets murkier and the CBI is called in to investigate the case. As the book questions-‘What happens when you cross Gamer, Banker, Politician  and Terrorist with virtual money?’ Read the book to find out.

Is it worth your time?
To be honest I haven’t read Subramanian’s previous works and after reading God is a Gamer, I definitely plan to get my hands on those. His fictional works include If God Was a Banker, Devil in Pinstripes, The Incredible Banker, The Bankster and Bankerupt. Non-fiction includes I Bought the Monk’s Ferrari. God is a Gamer was an outstanding thriller with just about the right amount of suspense, complicity and spice to keep you hooked to its pages. I can even say it is one of the few good books on the Indian market as of now with absolutely predictable and clichéd stories flooding the shelves. In India, it doesn't take much to hit the best-seller list and quality books are hard to find. The characters in the book are interesting and twisted, the plot is fast and unpredictable and the writer’s presentation perfect. God is a Gamer is impressive and grand, with just about the perfect dose of suspense and zing. And somehow, you can’t keep the pages turning fast enough.

(Image Source: Google

Thumbs Down
At times, the use of certain financial terms and the disconnected weaving in and out of the plot might baffle the reader but the book as a whole delivers on its promise.

If you love thriller, you should definitely get your hands on it. After a series of insufferable books by Indian writers that make you want to bang your head against the wall, here is something finally good enough that deserves its place on the best-seller list.

Rating: 4/5

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Away from Home (#GharwaliDiwali)

It was our first Diwali away from home. The city had outdone itself as fairy lights hung from canopies above streets, colourful lanterns shone bright against the night skies and women in gorgeous hues blew conchs as others went around lighting candles and bursting crackers. We sisters watched stunned as colourful fireworks burst against the night sky and then faded away only to be outshone by brighter fireworks. Yet it wasn't home.

 (The lonely balcony )

‘Beautiful, isn't it?’ my elder sister asked.

‘Ofcourse, but candles? Diyas are so much better. Remember how Papa would go shopping on Diwali eve and buy hundreds of diyas?’ I replied.

‘And then on the day of Diwali we would sit around all day shaping cotton threads and pouring oil into the diyas. You know I hated going into the backyard alone. But Mom would always assign me the task of decorating the backyard. It was creepy.’

‘Mom must be doing it all alone this year’, I said quietly.

(Lanterns on the streets)

We both fell silent. A thin spark of light shot up into the sky and burst into golden shimmer. Suddenly I started missing home terribly - the excitement and anticipation, the impatience, the coming together of the whole family to celebrate Diwali and most importantly the traditions. We would sit beside Ma as she offered prayers to Mother Lakhsmi and pay our tributes to the Goddess by lighting the first cracker in front of the deity.

The shrill sound of my sister’s ring tone filled my ears. ‘It’s Vishal! Let’s put him on speaker,’ said my sister excitedly.

‘Ahoy idiots! Have you burst any crackers yet?’ came my brother’s voice over the phone.

‘Nah... Don’t feel like,’ we chimed at the same time.

‘Great. Just hold on. Ma is just about to finish the puja. Get your crackers ready. I’m getting mine as well.’

First Diwali away from home)

All of a sudden, the distance no longer mattered. For one precious moment, we felt like we were together, standing in front of the deity with our crackers, all excited like four year-olds as we waited for Ma to finish the puja. And no sooner my brother screamed “Happy Diwali” over the phone, our crackers burst forth into sparks and we grinned like fools, elated as the sparks consumed the stick and fizzled away.

‘That was precious Vishal, wasn't it?’ I asked.

‘It always is sweetheart, it always is,' came Ma’s voice over the phone.

And as the city shimmered with joy, we looked back at the sky, our hearts a little lighter, our smiles a little brighter for we had found home for a few prized minutes. We brought out the candles and fairy lights, decorating the lonely balcony and calling out to neighbours as they hung lanterns, the balcony coming alive beneath our hands as the fairy lights happily twinkled and the colourful candles cheerfully dazzled, heralding the onset of Diwali.

 Celebrating #GharwaliDiwali with

Watch the PepsiCo #GharWaliDiwali film

(Photo Credits: Tarunima Dutta and Myself)

Monday, 13 October 2014

Book Review: Sceadu by Prashant Pinge

Book Name: Sceadu
Author: Prashant Pinge
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Publisher: Prashant Pinge

If I were to pick up a book on children’s fantasy from the store, Prashant Pinge’s Sceadu would not even figure on my list. The reason behind this being Sceadu (pronounced as Shay-du) sports an absolutely hideous cover that is instantaneously revolting and misleading. A gruesome scull-like mask with a scary smile adorning its golden face protruding against the black backdrop does not make for an attractive cover. But do not let the cover mislead you into thinking that Sceadu is not your money’s worth. For here is a story that is fascinating and well executed and deserves applause for creating a world beyond the realm of reality that is both credible and fantastic.

The Plot 
Nine year old Matilda finds herself haunted by nightmares of shadows when she ends up with a century old book Sceadu from a sale at the local library. As her nightmares grow worse, Matilda is increasingly tempted to reveal the contents of the book. But Sceadu houses a world of secrets that is so implausible that Matilda has only one way to ascertain. As nine year old Matilda disappears suddenly under mysterious circumstances, her brother Robert and cousins Patrick and Steven set out on a quest to find Matilda. The four end up in Sceadu, a land hidden in the human shadow, wherein begins an adventure where Matilda, Robert, Patrick and Steven fight their own inner demons whilst wrestling the vicious creatures of Sceadu. As magical Imps, Faeries, Ghouls and Goblins hunt down the four Children of Leod and ancient prophecies are revealed, the children realise that bigger issues are at stake and the world as they had known might perish until the children stop the evil King Resolutus. Will the children succeed in thwarting the plans of the evil Resolutus or will they succumb and risk the existence of mankind?

A preview of the Characters
Matilda reminded me of Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia. Brave and inquisitive, Matilda doubts her own worth and suffers from a lack of confidence in her own abilities. Robert, Matilda’s brother, is a bully who engages in constant displays of might is right whilst Steven refuses to open his mind to phenomenon beyond the borders of logic and science.  Steven’s brother Patrick, the oldest amongst the cousins is impatient and authorative and lying beyond these negativities are virtues that the children need to find for themselves. The magical creatures in the world of Sceadu are manifestations of the darker sides of human nature- anger, sloth, greed, power, etc. But beyond all the struggle for power, lies hope and the Eorls manifest themselves as the positivity that often lies concealed in the shadow.

Can the book be enjoyed by the old and young alike?
Though the book predominantly targets the young, Sceadu does deliver instances of deep thought that the old may equally enjoy. It’s a book that a mother might enjoy narrating to her children for there are lessons to be learnt and courage to be found, and yet wisdom to be drawn from the struggles of the four cousins. Pinge wonderfully crafts a story that deals with the thin demarcations between the real and the fabled and delves into deep psychology to create Sceadu. Tinged with adequate fables of Greek mythology combined with myths of his own, Sceadu holds enough to interest the old with thoughts of a certain psychological kind dealing with the darker sides of human nature. I would definitely enjoy retelling this story to my young niece and help her draw wisdom from the same for nothing thrills the young more than magic and fairy-tales.

Sceadu is a book that children will immensely enjoy for it is a tale of adventures and grief, of struggles and hope and ordinary heroes who emerge victorious firmly rooting in our minds that no matter what, in the end, good shall triumph over evil.

Rating: 3/5

(I received a copy of the book from the author for reviewing. All views are my own.)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Book Review: Seduced by Murder by Saurbh Katyal

Book Name:Seduced by Murder
Author: Saurbh Katyal
Publisher: Bluejay Books Pvt. Ltd.
Pages: 268
Price: Rs. 195/-

(Image Courtesy:Google)

Saurbh Katyal’s Seduced by Murder felt like an amateur’s attempt at writing a thriller that is both disappointing and lackluster Never judge a book by its cover? Well this definitely doesn't hold true in this case. With a poor plot (and an even poorer book cover), trust me when I say I would never have bought this book had I gone to the store. The characters are clichéd and Inspector Babu is downright silly. Vishal Bajaj is a private detective, who definitely isn't your average pot-bellied, bald investigator but doesn't deviate much from the hard drinking, troubled pollster with a murky past. With nothing remarkable about the protagonist to keep you hooked to his exploits, you look atleast for a story-line that might keep you riveted to the tediously boring two hundred and sixty eight pages. But the book disappoints on both fronts and you look for reasons to not finish the book midway.

The story begins at the Hunt Detective Agency when Vishal Bajaj receives a call from his old flame Aditi. Her husband’s elder brother Anil is found murdered in his hammock at the farmhouse and Vishal Bajaj is called in to investigate the case. Therein begins a mystery that is both dull and uninteresting. As Vishal delves deep into family secrets, deceit and lies he discovers truths that threaten to rip apart the family and scandals, that when exposed, could take the media by storm. To top it all, Vishal desperately fights his desire for Aditi, a selfish, promiscuous character who finds it difficult to make up her mind and thrives beneath limelight and attention. 

However, Paras Kapoor and his sons up the expectation-quotient by a considerable notch and make for interesting characters to read. The Kapoors are twisted, exciting characters who guard family secrets viciously and keep you questioning their motives at every turn. The complications and turmoil within the brothers, mysterious dealings and shady secrets are only revealed towards the end of the book and a certain build up of the character of the murderer would have made for an exciting read.

Katyal succeeds in keeping the readers guessing as to the identity of the killer but disappoints throughout the story. Better plot with a better build up and yet better suspense to thrill could have made the book work. As it is, there are way too many buts and the book as a thriller falls flat on its face. I would definitely recommend no reader to waste their time reading such a book and even if you do so, do not read the book with hopes that the story might get better with the turn of the pages. 

Verdict: If you are willing to risk it!
Rating: 2/5

(I received a copy of the book from the author for reviewing. All views are my own.)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Book Review: 60 Minutes by Upendra Namburi

Book: 60 minutes
Author: Upendra Namburi
Publisher: Westland Ltd.
Pages: 361
Price: Rs.350/-

The very first thing that struck my mind on having 60 minutes delivered to my place was ’Will I really enjoy a corporate drama?’ The bold yellow cover screaming 60 minutes in your face against a backdrop of racy city lights and streets does capture your attention and if you thought that corporate dramas are not your thing, you might be in for a surprise! For Upendra Namburi leaves you in no doubt of his narration skills and keeps you hooked with the promise of 60 racy, intense minutes!

  The story begins with Maithili- a beautiful, strong headed woman- immensely successful in the ruthless, cutting-edge corporate planet, lacking the emotional security of a relationship. Suffering from immense depression Maithili dangles amidst the fine lines of life and death. Suddenly we find ourselves in the presence of the enigmatic, brash and fiercely ambitious Agastya, CMO of BCL, planning the biggest product launch of his career. In the blink of an eye, the corporation is plunged into a nightmare with its arch rival Stark out to destroy BCL's major campaign as corporate rivals Agastya and Sailesh gamble against the odds and fuel the fire for a drama that threatens to bring both corporate giants to their knees. And therein begins an extremely exhilarating exhibition of vengeance, addiction and rivalry that thrills you and keeps you guessing at every stage. Caught in this web are characters who are deceitful, ruthless and power-hungry, seeking security in the highs and lows of corporate uncertainties and politics. Maithili’s need for vengeance, Agastya’s need for rush and Sailesh’s need for retribution combine to make 60 minutes a highly fascinating read.

The plot, of course, could have been crisper and sharp and few unnecessary details could have been ignored to cut the book short by a few pages. Yet the characters operate so much along blurred, undefined lines of grey that the thrills they provide override the flaws of the book. With high profile jobs, reputations, careers and relationships at stake the reader might just sit up and get vividly engrossed, forgetting to pin-point and criticize Namburi’s writing imperfections in the process. Or the reader may tire of the immense complicacy packed within the pages and despair trying to understand the high profile policies and negotiations that make up a major portion of the plot. 60 minutes is either a winner or a loser and unlike its characters, does not operate amidst shades of grey.

So is 60 minutes worth your time? I would say you should definitely take the plunge and try your hand at something different for once. For 60 minutes might just end up surprising you. Raw, brilliant and intense, 60 minutes is a product of passion that is clearly reflected in the writing. And beyond the veil of a corporate drama lies the conflicts of characters whom you cannot help but love and despise with equal intensity. As the book claims-‘The battle for supremacy continues, who will falter, who will persist and who will come out on top?’ Who indeed...

Verdict: Definitely worth a shot!
Rating- 3/5

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

After a lot of excited anticipation and checking my phone regularly for the delivery of The Fault in Our Stars, my enthusiasm knew no bounds when the book actually got delivered to my place. To be honest, I was really looking forward to reading the book for I had read raging reviews and my expectation quotient had peaked considerably. The bright blue cover felt smooth beneath my fingers and there was something almost ethereal about the clouds enclosing the famous words of Brutus ’The Fault in Our stars’.

As I turned the pages, I was almost rendered speechless by the epigraph. Stunning and haunting in its simplicity, the epigraph dazzled my senses almost at once. And then began the story of 16 year old Hazel Grace. Afflicted with cancer at the young age of 13, Hazel Grace was a fighter battling both cancer and teenage. Increasingly annoyed at her mother’s continuous insistence that she attend Support Group meetings (and make new friends and meet new people and live her life as teenagers are supposed to), Hazel Grace gives in to her mother’s demands only after negotiating a deal that includes recording episodes of America’s Next Top Model! And we end up meeting Augustus Waters at the fated Support Group. Therein begins a romance that is refreshing and young and sweeps you away with its innocence.

What however stays with you after reading the book is not the love of the young teenagers but the thoughts that the author so brilliantly brings to life. And you almost grow to love An Imperial Affliction as much as Hazel and Augustus do (An Imperial Affliction and Peter Van Houten are figments of Greene’s imagination that are crucial to the plot of the star-crossed lovers). This is my first John Greene novel and I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of his books. Tinged with humour, joy, innocence and philosophy, the book delivers on its promise. The book is honest and devastating, boldly bringing to light the stories of two people fated to die, clinging to strands of hope and tragically in love. The part where Hazel finds Augustus in his car, covered in his own vomit and pleading to do one little thing himself is shattering. And after putting down the book, you cannot help but wonder about life and how often we take it for granted.

John Greene's The Fault in Our Stars is beautiful, stunning and tragic. And most importantly it’s alive and breathing in your heart even after you have finished the book. Brilliant is all I can say...

Verdict: A must read!!
Rating: 4.3/5

Friday, 22 August 2014

Book Review: Private India

Book Name: Private India
Author- Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson
Publisher: Arrow Books

Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson’s Mumbai thriller Private India got my senses excited the moment I ripped apart the package enclosing the book and disclosed the cover. With a backdrop of the famous Gateway of India and the all glamorous Taj overlooking the city and Private India screaming out in bold orange, the book proudly claims ‘It’s the season for murder in Mumbai’. But inspite of the promising start, the book felt intensely ‘Bollywood’ and a little too exaggerated at times.

The story begins in the Marine Bay Plaza where a Thai doctor is found murdered in her room with a bright yellow scarf around her neck.  Investigation agency Private India is called in to investigate the matter and therein begins a series of gruesome murders across Mumbai. A serial killer who deems fit to leave behind props as message and a yellow scarf around the neck of his victims, all his targets unsurprisingly women. Is the deranged psychopath a loner who kills only for the thrill or is he an integral part of a bigger scenario that threatens to rip apart Mumbai in its wake?

The book grips your attention as the investigation continues, unveiling mind boggling connections to weave a thriller that explores the troubled minds of both the predator and the prey. On one hand is Santosh Wagh, the chief detective of Private India, who battles his own demons to fight for a cause that threatens his own sanity and on the other, the victims whose double lives hide hideous truths that may have unknowingly endangered their own lives and those of others. The plot goes much beyond the killer to delve into the murky underworld of Mumbai where drug trafficking, bootlegging and prostitution thrive under the powerful Munna and his ally, the spiritual master Nimboo Baba. Santosh's hot protégée Nisha Gandhe, the forensic expert Mubeen, the tech wizard Hari have their own stories to tell along with the troubled cop Rupesh. But what fascinated me most from the very beginning were the strange objects that the murderer left behind with every corpse, carefully arranged to deliver a message that is both intriguing and startling at the same time. The book unquestionably delivers on its promise, keeping you hooked to the pages, but disappoints drastically in the end.

The ending is too dramatic and as I have already mentioned before-‘intensely Bollywood’. It felt like watching those highly exaggerated action sequences of films where the hero single-handedly battles the villain and his numerous goons to emerge victorious against all odds. The writers try to cramp in too much into the plot- murder, corruption, glamour, terrorism, the Mumbai underworld, religion- in short everything that is necessary to make a successful Bollywood flick and that is where the book ends up disappointing the reader. Haven’t we already had enough of those? What we want is a writer to break tradition and portray India (here Mumbai) beyond the image it has so unconsciously harboured for itself over the years. Yes, the murderer shall definitely stay etched on my mind for a while and so will the troubled Santosh Wagh. But Private India as a thriller shall fade from my memory eventually.

With the quality of books thriving in the Indian market, Private India is absolutely a notch over them and do read it for the killer shall keep you immensely entertained. I look forward to reading other books by Patterson and Sanghi for both the writers are skilled story-tellers. But ofcourse, no co-authored works please. The handling of the plot gets eventually messy when writers collaborate on books. The characters of Private India are clichéd, the storyline sloppy but one fine murderer is all it takes to make a book work!

 Verdict- A fascinating killer who keeps your senses hooked? Worth a read right?
Rating: 3/5

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!
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