Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Children, Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy.
The Lively Library & Unlikely Romance is an appreciable debut novella by Niranjan Navalgund, an author and a chess player from India.
Nayan, an arbiter in the chess tournaments, is now looking after a library that his father has left behind. It was Nayan’s father’s last wish to reopen the library which was very special for him. Why was it special for his father? Nayan doesn’t know. In absence of humans in the immediate surroundings, the books of the library come to life. They have their own world in which they are equipped with all the counterparts of human world. These books fall in love and get married too. Like humans, they too face curses. And they have their own gods too. Pakshi and Helmine are the cursed divine entities of this lively library. While the books are going about their day-to-day lives, they get to know of an upcoming danger. What is that danger? How did they get to know about it? What will they do to protect themselves from this unknown danger? Read the Lively Library & Unlikely Romance to decode the codes of this book world.
For a novella, The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance does good with the brief descriptions and scenes. But as a reader, I felt that the concept of this book, though beautiful, got wasted without the elaboration into grandeur. This concept honestly had such potential. A grand fantasy world got shrunk to a tiny segment. The author could have built on each chapter with more details to cater to the imagination of the readers. I am disheartened by the shortness of this life of the lively library. The calculations in between the narration distracts the flow. And the curses could have been explained in detail too. It is such a loss to the readers! Nevertheless, whatever is narrated is enough to give you a peek into the lively library as the book also has illustrations to aid to your imagination.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Children, Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction.
Imprint: Partridge India
Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates is the second book in the Secrets of Zynpagua series by Ilika Ranjan. The first book, Secrets of Zynpagua: Return of the Princess, garnered great reviews and the third book, Secrets of Zynpagua: Birth of Mystery Child, is out now and is up for grabs. Ilika Ranjan is not only a children’s book author. Her first book was a fiction about corporate life called “Puppet on the Fast Track.”
Search of Soulmates starts with Anika, the princess of Zynpagua, getting a premonition that Zynpagua is going to be under a threat again soon. Her premonition turns true when Drudan, the evil scientist, returns with the support of magic of a mermaid to rule of Zynpagua and also rule over the Earth. The demon planets help the evil to reduce the goodness blessed by the good planets and everything falls into place for Drudan and his mermaid. But Anika, with the equipped with the teachings of Venus, fights Drudan, mermaid and their army of evil people and disgusting sea worms, with the support of her mother Sussaina, brother Vivian, Lady Carol – the queen of kingdom of clouds, her grandson Leo, a snake Romeo and a tortoise Mootu along with a flock of magical rainbow birds and peregrine falcons. Femina, who was turned into stone, comes back to life thanks to Anika’s uncle Frederick. To know how an eleven year old princess Anika fights evil, how Femina comes to life and whether they win or lose, read Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates.
Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates is a good sequel to the first book, but needs heavy editing to be done. Apart from that, the story is good enough to cater to children’s imagination. It is a good progress in the Indian scenario for children’s books. It is also an attempt to have both religion and science in one place. Children will definitely enjoy this second book in the series.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Horror, Fiction, Classic
Imprint: Bantam Classic
Abraham Stoker, an Irish novelist known to the world as Bram Stoker, wrote short stories too. He is famous for his work Dracula, which was first named as The Undead.
The story is set in and written in 19th century. Jonathan Harker, a solicitor from England, goes to Transylvania to meet his client Count Dracula regarding new properties bought for the Count. Since the start of the journey until he reaches the castle, Harker is spooked by the strange things that transpire and the driver controlling the wolves. Once in the castle, the strange behaviour and looks of the old Count Dracula make him nervous. What scare him further are the ghosts that try to feed on him and his house arrest by the Count. While Harker is struggling to escape from Transylvania, his fiancée, Wilhelmina Murray also known as Mina, worries of not hearing properly from him in England. She spends her time with her friend Lucy Westenra in Whitby. Lucy starts behaving strangely at night after being found on lonely ground alone with tow marks on her neck. Lucy’s fiancé, Arthur Holmwood also known as Lord Godalming, and his two friends, Dr. John Seward and Quincey Morris who are also in love with Lucy, are worried about continuously failing health of Lucy. Dr. Seward also faces the issue of handling Renfield, a loon. Distraught by this, Dr. Seward invites his professor and friend, Abraham Van Helsing, from Amsterdam to come see Lucy. Van Helsing takes a look at Lucy and understands the reason to be a vampire. He tries to save her and succeeds to even do so, but fails when she throws caution into air. Dead Lucy turns into a vampire, but eventually gets killed. Things take a bad turn when the rescued and married Jonathan Harker sees a young Count Dracula in England. Mina and Jonathan form a team with the other four men to put an end to the haunting in England.
Dracula is written in the diary form. The day-to-day happenings are written in each person’s diary. Each and every minute detail is elaborately explained. Just like other novels written in this format, the story by Bram Stoker too bores the readers every now and then. Skip a few paragraphs and you will still be able to understand what’s going on. The reader will be desperate to finish the book. The only best part, from a movie buff point of view, is you get the origin of Dr. Van Helsing in this book. But we should applaud Bram Stoker for coming up with a vampire story back when people were still not into paranormal fantasy erotica.
Read this classic only if you have nothing better to do.
Review by Shwetha H S
What would have happened if many of our eminent scientists had not died or deviated from their scientific aims in their lives? Humanity would have technologically developed, but not sure for good or bad. In another universe, a world called Regnus is highly developed, so developed that its citizens are at the dead end of any kind of technological development because they have exhausted themselves in every possibility. To stay as the most developed world of theirs as well as neighbouring universes, the History Security Officers are assigned the tasks of distracting scientists of different worlds and hindering them from reaching their goals. On one such mission, Regnus’ History Security Officer Rakena meets Dr. Wolfe Sterling, who is trying to save science on Earth. What happens to the history science on Earth? Does Rakena succeed in altering Earth’s scientific history? Will Dr. Wolfe Sterling resist the alien beauty’s ventures?
Loose Strings has a good storyline with multiple time travelling and travelling between universes, complex ideas of physics which you don’t need to understand in depth to enjoy the story. Since all the characters are humans and similar to humans, the reader doesn’t have to think about the complexities of the alien anatomy. But the problem is there are so many characters; even the supporting characters have their own supporting characters and storylines. The story is fast paced, but there are times when there are abrupt shifts from one scene to another, or a character doing something which wasn’t actually necessary or called for. But the only point that becomes difficult to accept is the element of God in the Sci-Fi novel. It almost becomes like preaching Christianity to the readers with the help of aliens. Dr. Dale A Grove lets the readers down when he starts talking about God.
Except for the God part, the novel must be for its unique time travel and multiverse travel story. Sci-Fi lovers will enjoy this if they ignore the sudden inclusion of the Almighty.
Review by Shwetha H S
It has been years since Prince Charming rescued Princess Snow White. Don’t you want to know what she has been up to? David Meredith tells you what our naive princess has been up to in her happily ever after in a life after marrying Prince Charming in this story based on the fairy tale by Grimm brothers. Hang in there because this is not just a mere extension of a fairy tale.
Snow White is not a princess anymore. She is a queen now. With her husband, King Charming dead and her daughter Raven’s wedding nearing, Queen Snow White is indifferent to everything is lost without her loving husband. In a bid to get out of the depression, the Queen decides to take a stroll in her own castle and absentmindedly ends up in her tormenting but dead stepmother Lady Arglist’s chamber. There she finds the famed Mirror on the Wall. Contrary to the popular belief, or our understanding from the original Snow White tale, the mirror is not an ally of the villain and is just a reflector of truth.
The mirror shows and tells Snow White what she has been denying for all those years and tries to make her see the light. It makes Snow White realise when and why she actually started hating her stepmother, the strength she had to brace against Lady Arglist’s abuses, the helpless determination to escape from her tormentor, how she was saved by her dwarves and her prince, how her husband made a lady out of a girl, how her husband helped her in the matters of court, how she had found the long lost courage to stand for herself in the absence of her husband against usurpers, love and devotion of her husband displayed vividly on the verge of her death and escape from it, and love and admiration of her Raven proven when King Charming dies unexpectedly. Through all this, the mirror makes Queen Snow White understand that she and her husband lived wonderful years together, she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, her daughter and her kingdom, and she was no more and damsel in distress.
Through this story based on a fairy tale, the author David Meredith conveys the message that girls should stop acting damsel in distress and waiting for their Prince Charming, and instead should stand tall and charm their way to their life goals. This is a story worth reading because it tells you what happens after the mythical “happily-ever-after” and even Snow White had a life like us.
Review by Shwetha H S
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander is one of the books that’s part of Harry Potter’s curriculum in Hogwarts. Though this book claims to be an encyclopaedia about magical animals, it turns out to be a mere catalogue, all the magical animals in alphabetical order. It is a commendable effort to come up with seventy-five species of magical animals, but the descriptions don’t cater much to the reader’s imagination regarding the physical appearances of certain animals. Considering this book to be part of Hogwarts’ curriculum, how can students rely on this book? At some places the description is just splendid, but for rest we have to just keep calm. Unsure about how the animals are meant to be, now the reader has to rely on the movie version of this book. But, the way categorisation of beasts is done and how each animal or beast is different from the other, makes us appreciate the mesmerising world of Harry Potter and other witches and wizards. Of course, now Muggles too.
Review by Shwetha H S
Following the events that occurred by the death of Vichitraveerya in the Book #1 of Hastinapur series, The Winds of Hastinapur by Sharath Komarraju, The Rise of Hastinapur starts with Amba who becomes a priestess, then takes you to Pritha, the princess of Kunti, and at last Gandhari, the princess of Gandhar. Devavrata is now renowned as Bhishma, and Satyavati is not mentioned much in here, but Ganga is still there. And you get to meet Shakuni, the prince of Gandhar and younger brother of Gandhari. Hastinapur has grown to be a juggernaut and so does the number of people scheming for the downfall of Hastinapur and Bhishma.
This book, more than the first one, leaves you wondering if Bhishma was truly a visionary or just a happy-go-lucky chap for the time being. More than men, he has women scheming against him and he has no idea like ever. The celestials are present as usual and they play their role whenever necessary. There are lust-filled, power- hungry people everywhere who may or may not be truly brave. As the story continues, it is easier now to see these characters from Mahabharata to be more realistic than magical as they are told to be. Of course, magic is there due to the Celestials, but this retelling doesn’t have magic for everything; like magic to bring shoot arrows and burn people.
As the story moves forward, there are more and more characters brought in. I am sure there are more to come. Why? Because this is Mahabharata! There are numerous characters meant to be in it. But for now, the royal ladies are paving the path to where they go and lay the foundation to one of the epics that mankind has ever witnessed (ahem, read). So, brace yourselves people. Sharath Komarraju is here to stay narrating his version of Mahabharata.
Review by Shwetha H S
We grew up listening to tales of Mahabharata and sub-stories related to this epic. Many of us must have even watched the telecast of B R Chopra’s and Ravi Chopra’s Mahabharat and its many re-telecasts. The epic is etched on our minds so well that we can’t imagine anybody else for all the characters apart from those who portrayed them. But Sharath Komarraju manages to cast away those familiar images and instil new ones in their places through his first book in this Hastinapur series, which is a retelling of Mahabharata, called The Winds of Hastinapur. You certainly won’t think of Mukesh Khanna when you think of Devavrata while reading this story.
The Hastinapur series is not only about Mahabharata, but about women of Mahabharata. True to being the first in the series, The Winds of Hastinapur tells you where and why a path was paved for this epic. There is a great man at the beginning of every epic and behind every great (replacing successful) man, there is a woman. And that woman is none other than Ganga, and many other women who were the Lady of the River before her. Then came Satyavati followed by Amba and her sisters. The story in the first book mainly revolves around the age-old concept, you know what they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Well, this applies only for Ganga here. Satyavati is more of “I am the woman.” Amba arrives towards the end of the story and that makes me guess it is from her the next story starts.
There are men too in this story. Apart from many celestials and sages, we have many kings here. Out of them, Shantanu and Devavrata, who goes on to be known as Bhishma. You will take pity on both the men as the story moves ahead.
From what is depicted of this epic in sculptures and paintings on ancient architectures, we already know that men were brave and women were sensual. But imagine them to be making out with each other? Oh, they were more human than divine. Or did divine blood too crave for intercourse? This retelling is more realistic than completely magical; like babies popping out of nowhere. Nonetheless, this retelling of Mahabharata is worth reading and it keeps you waiting for the next book is the series, The Rise of Hastinapur.
Review by Satish A G
“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”
In this book, we get to know the exact meaning of the above quote. The whole book, with all the characters revolving around “friendship” and the different ways of expressing it in their own style. Being friends just does not mean being there during times of happiness or supporting during hard times. It also means showing the right direction or pointing out the mistakes and help to set them right. Friendship is hence one of the biggest strengths to everyone when you have a “good friend” to be with you always.
The beauty of the narration here is the subtle nature of describing the individual’s behaviour and thoughts towards others. Though the whole theme revolves around two characters – Gideon and Kibishi, the Crimson Scarf Samurai – other characters are also justified, which makes it even more entertaining. The reader will want to know what happens next to each character, and not just the two main lead characters. Also, each one of them varies so much from others, which makes the readers to introspect deep down within themselves as to which character they would represent.
The other thing that is a highlight of the entire narration is the emotional bonding or the personal relationship that develops not only amongst the characters, but also among readers. We tend to become one with the story. Couple of instances like – when Jill asks Gideon to be Kibishi’s “best friend” to survive the darkness within himself; when Kibishi departs from castle Valero without saying goodbye to Gideon – involves the readers and grips them tightly.
The first part ends at an interesting junction and also with lot of questions (as mentioned in the Afterword) – Is Gideon really “the child of Destiny”? How does Kibishi save his best friend from the situation they are in? Why did Albion pretend so far? Is Clover rally dead? Will Kenoke succeed in his “Operation Saviour”? Lot of questions remain, which have to be answered in the next book.
But, the book, in the first part, covers a lot of ground and sets the context nicely. The foundation has been laid to build a wonderful mansion going forward. The readers will be waiting to know what happens next, including us.
Review by Vijaya Raghava
Barking madness is quintessentially a young adult story that has romance, lust, jealousy, vengeance, werewolves, murder, thrill and its share of flaws.
The story is told from the point of view of its two main characters – Rose and Mike. Rose moves to a small town and is among the “hottest” girls in her school. Everyone in the school fantasizes about her. Mike also has a crush on her but is too shy to speak to girls. Within no time Rose meets a handsome hunk and falls in love with him. They go out partying and on one night they are attacked by a Werewolf. The hunk is killed while Rose, though bitten by the wolf, escapes death as Mike saves her just in time. Over the next few months a string of people close to Rose are killed. Further, the dead start speaking to Rose and haunt her. She is further haunted by a masked man whom she has never met. With each death, Rose slips deeper into a depression. Mike gets a few chances to get close to Rose and tries to help her with her issues even while dealing with his own problems. Do these deaths have anything to do with Rose and the Werewolf? Or are they just a figment of her imagination. Or is there something more to all this madness?
Most of the characters in the story are teenagers and you can relate to them. That said, you can’t help but think that a bit more effort could have been put into developing the lead characters as most of the story revolves around them. You find Rose sobbing through most part of the story and after a while you start wondering if she deserves to be the lead character. Most things fall in place for her because she is “hot”. There are not many dimensions to Mike’s character as well. The support characters seem convincing and they come and go as and when the plot requires.
The plot gathers pace slowly and explodes with gore with the first few murders and keeps the reader intrigued for a while. However, the middle chapters seem like a bit of a drag with too many repetitive events and offer very little in terms of freshness to the plot. The tempo picks up towards the climax and there is a new twist to the plot. The author tries to mix up things a bit towards the end but the end result seems a bit underwhelming and leaves many questions unanswered even if you factor in the revelations at the end.
I definitely feel that the book is a bit lenghty and can be condensed a bit. I wouldn’t mind recommending the book in its condensed form.