18 October, 2018

#BookReview - The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

England 1546.

As young Princess Elizabeth is in a dangerous position as her older siblings jostle for the throne.

Roger Ascham, Elizabeth's teacher and mentor, is determined to keep her safe. So when he receives an unusual invitation from the Sultan in Constantinople, asking him to take part in the greatest chess tournament the world has ever seen, he resolves to take the princess with him.

But death stalks the streets of the glittering Ottoman capital - a cardinal has been found mutilated. Ascham is asked to investigate, but as he and Elizabeth delve deeper, they uncover a secret that marks the young princess for life. And a darkness that defines the queen she will become.


Goodreads * Amazon


When a friend gifted me this book I knew I had to dive into it immediately since his book recommendations are usually on spot.

Set in the sixteenth Century, the book is about a chess tournament to be hosted in Constantinople. The sultan has invited a representative from different countries to participate in the Tournament. This is around the time there was a plague that was affecting the country. Roger Ascham, Elizabeth’s mentor, decides that this would an appropriate opportunity for the young royal to experience the world while staying away from the plague and the politics of the court. As such, with the King’s permission, they join the entourage of Gilbert Giles, the chess player representing England in the Tournament. But once they reach there, they find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery. Having heard of Roger Ascham’s prowess, the Sultan enlists his help in solving the mystery. But with bodies falling right and left, young Elizabeth could be in danger too. Will Roger Ascham be able to protect his ward and solve the murders at the same time?

As expected, I enjoyed this book thoroughly as it was very different from all the books that I have recently read. For instance, the book is set in the 16th century, long before forensic science was even thought of. So, the protagonist had to rely more on his own skills than forensic evidence. Then there's the fact that most of the characters are inspired by real life characters which called for a medley of facts and fiction. I did look up a few characters mentioned in the book, particularly Roger Ascham.

The character of Roger Ascham is probably one of the main reasons I liked the book so much. He is the mentor of young Elizabeth and through the course of the story we learn exactly how their relationship is. While Ascham believed in Elizabeth experiencing things for herself and helped guide her thought process, he was also very protective of her. He allowed Elizabeth to experience things that the people of the time would have thought scandalous for a woman to experience, yet maintained a level of security for her at all times. He encouraged independent thinking... Aside from his relationship with his ward, the way he investigates using common sense and attention to detail was also very admirable. I particularly liked him in a scene where he stands up and confronts a very influential man. It showed his confidence and courage.

Elizabeth herself turned out to be an interesting character. At thirteen, she is very logical and level headed. Encouraged by her mentor, she is also very curious about the world. The one thing that bothered me in the book, was the fact that since this was sort of coming of age novel for Elizabeth; the author brought in the sex element through her friend Elsie rather than through Elizabeth’s personal experience. The narrative got a bit dry and felt forced whether it was Elsie narrating her experience or whether it was Elizabeth witnessing her friend in the act.

The book also handles the topic of Child Sexual Abuse in a very matter of fact way, which I admit was slightly jarring for me. I am not sure if I am comfortable with where the book leaves it off at. 

The plot itself was simple enough for me to figure out the ‘mystery’ ahead of time. But that did not take away from the reading experience at all. There was a little action towards the end to spice things up.



Check out my post with LEO on our Blog BFF Musings

06 September, 2018

#Interview with Ishita Deshmukh, #Author of Heart Quake

About the Book:

Bhuj. Circa, 2001. A city wrecked by a massive earthquake. 

They met after ten long years. Their hearts wrecked by the promise of togetherness that could never be. 

As love tries to bloom again in the unlikeliest of places, intrigue sets in. Fleeting shadows… Hidden eyes… Mysterious deaths. 

What will happen when the tremors of love collide? Will he make it to the epicentre of love? Will her heart quake? 

Only Heart Quake will tell… 






Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Interview with the Author:

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
I always loved to tell stories. As a child I would create my own fairytales and insist that my paternal grandfather writes them down in a notebook. In school, I took extra creative writing classes. And then, one day, I simply decided to take it up seriously. I am glad that I had the opportunity and my family and friends have always been very supportive. 

What inspires you to write?
The people around me. I love observing them, guessing their backgrounds, and if I am lucky, eavesdropping too. 

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
It was a creative writing class assignment in the same year that the earthquake struck Bhuj (2001). A few years later, I found the short story in my cupboard and decided to turn it into a novel. 

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Oh, there are many such stories. Some are unfinished, some are complete but haven’t yet found the right medium to reach their audience. 

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Sonal, the heroine, has some similarities, such as being independent, stubborn, yet sometimes over-emotional.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
To let myself free, forget my inhibitions while writing. There is nothing good nor bad in the words itself, it’s in the context and the interpretation of them. I am learning to free my mind and play with my characters and situations. 

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Writing for pleasure or as a hobby is very different from taking it up as a profession. Be ready to struggle. Be ready to fail. And if that does not deter you, then you are ready to write and explore your passion. 

What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?
To be honest, when I created my characters and fleshed them out, I picked out my favourite actors and placed them next to each person. Unfortunately, that was more than a decade ago. So, the same actors will not work right now. Currently, I would love to have Sushant Singh Rajput and Anushka Sharma play the protagonists. 

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
Firstly, I would not be stranded, because I am a control freak and would not let myself get into a situation where there is no way out. 
But if by some misfortune, I did (my worst nightmare!) and I do not lose my mind, then I would have a bottle of water, a romance novel and my mobile phone.  

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I read a lot. That’s my favourite hobby. 
I don’t go anywhere to unwind, but I watch Hindi soap operas on television. People complain that it is regressive, some of it is, but what I look for is the human quirks that some script writers add to the protagonists / antagonists of a show. I do not follow any program for more than 3-6 months for they start to stagnate, but I certainly study them. 
I like to paint, play the keyboard / piano, bake. So, I am generally never bored. 😊 

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
There is a very long bucket list, but here are some things I recall right now:
Seeing a book of mine turn into a movie
Being interviewed on TV
Spending 4 months in Europe, exploring the countries and writing
Spending 3 months in Lake District (UK)
A 5-day holiday in the world’s most expensive resort

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
I love multi-tasking and doing totally different things in a single day. For example, I might cook, then embroider, then write an article, make a corporate presentation and then practice playing the keyboard, all in the space of a few hours. 
I am a sucker for a good romantic movie, even if it is totally predictable (I love Hallmark Channel movies!)
I love planning. My friends often tease me by saying that I even plan to plan. 

What do you have in store next for your readers?
I am still in the planning stage. But it is going to be something personal and yet fictitious. 

About the Author:
Ishita Deshmukh is, in many ways, a mascot for national integration! Born to Bengali and Gujarati parents, (who have a common Marathi surname) she grew up on a steady diet of Tamil culture and French literature in Puducherry. If that wasn’t enough, she is married to a Telugu bidda. She has this uncanny (and unnerving) ability to switch between six different languages in the course of a conversation.
She is a multi-tasking marketing professional who currently runs a small home business in Singapore and helps with her family business back home at Puducherry. 
She is passionate about the arts, loves painting, playing the piano and embroidery, but has always dreamt of becoming a writer. She is a regular fixture at the neighbourhood library and has a special place in her heart for romantic fiction. 
Although not a foodie, she conjures up scrumptious food for her family and friends. Her desserts have necessitated several layovers at Changi, Singapore (much to the chagrin of Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok). 
So, get ready to devour Heart Quake, the first of many delicious fares from her literary cauldron. 

Get in touch on Twitter

22 August, 2018

#SpecialFeature :: #Reviews for Anon. by Bhavani Iyer



*** Special Feature - August 2018 ***


About the Book:
Welcome to Calcutta of the sixties and the seventies.

Meet Debottam, the genius vagabond son of a wealthy zamindar.

Meet Urbish, the ambitious dreamer whose father is a fisherman.
Walk with them through the red earth of Shantiniketan.

Visit the jazz clubs of Park Street.

Experience friendship redefined by two people who have only one thing in common writing.

But one is willing to kill to write and the other is willing to die.

Anon. Short for Anonymous.

After all what’s in a name?


Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Reviews for the Book:

Witty, engaging and engrossing, this book is a wonderful read. The beauty of the book lies in the manner in which the author deals with the complexity of human relationships, displaying their beauty along with their ugliness without any judgement leaving it to the reader's interpretation. ~ Privy Trifles

The book is like a slow moving river with sudden whirlpools that suck you in only to throw you over a cliff and land on wet sands to hear the water gently lapping a little distance away. It is poetry in prose. It is also a movie waiting to be made.  ~ AM on Amazon
The characterization is the top-notch. One can relate at least one situation or character to their life. Bhavani Iyer has sketched both the protagonists with at most care. The emotional bond a reader gets while reading the story is exceptional. The words that capture the emotions stand out.  ~ Prakash Parasuraman


About the Author:
Bhavani Iyer started her career with Advertising as a Trainee Copywriter with a leading ad agency, iB&W Advertising. She then moved to journalism and had worked as the editor for the film magazine Stardust. She made her screenwriting debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black. She has collaborated on the screenplays for Bhansali's Guzaarish, Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera and the Indian version of Fox's hit show 24 (Indian TV series). She has also written the critically acclaimed Raazi, a spy drama that has been lauded for its sensitive depiction of cross-border espionage set during the India-Pakistan war of 1971.
She lives in Mumbai with her boyfriend, three dogs, and a cat.
Anon. is her first novel.



Giveaway:
3 Paperback copies of Anon. up for grabs for Indian Residents

a Rafflecopter giveaway

16 August, 2018

#BookBlitz :: Storm From Taxila by Shreyas Bhave

~ Book Blitz ~
Storm From Taxila by Shreyas Bhave
15th to 17th August

About the Book:  
BHARATVARSHA, LAND OF THE ARYAS: 270 BC
Bindusar, the Samrat Chakravartin of all the Aryas, ruler of the Indian subcontinent, is dead. Chaos rules across the empire. The royal succession turns upon intrigue, dark coalitions, violence and death. The realm stands divided and civil war ensues.
In Vidishanagri: Asoka kills his brother’s Ashwamedha stallion and marches to Patliputra with his army. The ancient Brahminical order rises in his supports, awaiting his entry into the capital. Have they made the right choice?
In Taxila: The rightful heir, Sushem, raises an army to meet the challenge posed by his ambitious and gifted brother, Asoka. He prepares to march to the capital and seize the throne by force. Will history repeat itself; will Sushem achieve what his grandfather Chandragupta did 50 years ago?
In Junagarh: Guild Master Hardeo sets out on a private mission to acquire the great salt pans of Sindh. Will he succeed in his secret enterprise?
In Vidishanagri: Radhagupta travels to fulfill the task allotted to him by the Order. Kanakdatta, the Buddhist, stands up to stop him. Will Radhagupta fail in his mission?
The winds of war howl over the sub-continent, blowing every last person one way or the other. Blood will be spilled, secrets revealed and men ruined. History shall be made.
In Book II of the epic Asoka Trilogy, the storm approaches; the harbinger of death and destruction. When the dust finally settles, the great question will be answered: Who is the next Samrat of the holy Lands of the Aryas?

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon



Read an Excerpt:

Asoka was sitting on the steps to the throne, fastening his knee-high boots when Chanakya entered the chamber in his wheeled chair, dressed not in his usual long robe, but a cotton undershirt. Asoka did not look up but kept tightening the straps of his boots with both hands. The burning torches dispelled the darkness that blanketed everything outside.
As Chanakya rolled forward, his shadow fell upon the throne. “Why are you in armour, Prince?” he asked.
“I am in armour because we are under siege,” Asoka said, finishing his task.
“We have been under siege for a week,” Chanakya reminded him.
“But tonight the enemy is hammering at our walls,” Asoka replied, pointing a thumb over his shoulder.
“The walls will hold Prince.”
“I do not doubt that. It is I who cannot hold on any longer.”
Chanakya wheeled nearer. “What do you mean?”
Asoka got to his feet. “Order the Captain of the Guards to assemble his reserve force at the stables.” “But why?” Chanakya asked, perplexed.
Asoka looked down at him. “I plan to sally out,” he said coolly.
“I beg your pardon, Prince, but why such a foolhardy action?”
“It is military slang,” Asoka explained, looking around for his shield, “sallying out signifies a foray by the defenders, in the middle of the night, to carry out a surprise raid on the besieger’s camp.”
“Well you are not sallying out,” Chanakya said firmly.
“Why do you say that, Prime Minister?”
“Isn’t it obvious? It is dangerous!”
“Great things cannot be achieved without facing danger, Prime Minister. You of all people should know that.”
“Great things!” Chanakya laughed mockingly. “What do you plan to achieve by sallying out, Prince?”
“Small things in this case,” Asoka replied, reaching for his scabbard. “We have about forty horses in the stables, Prime Minister. I and some of the city guards will ride out under the cover of night and raid Sushem’s camp. I am certain we will catch his men totally unawares. If we are lucky, perhaps Maharaja Sushem will fall to my sword.”
“And if you are unlucky,” Chanakya said, “you may fall to his.”
Asoka shrugged as he pulled out his sword and checked its sharp edge by moving a finger over it. “I am not afraid of dying,” He said.
“You do not need to do this, Prince,” Chanakya pleaded. “Everything is under control.”
Asoka pushed his sword back into the scabbard. “Everything will be under control once I am done with this raid,” he said softly.
“Your friend, Shiva of Avanti, comes with your army soon,” Chanakya said, following Asoka in his chair. “He will attack Sushem from behind and force him to lift the siege. That is the plan!”
“The plan!” Asoka stopped and turned around. “Is that your plan? Is that what you wish the people of Patliputra to say, that they were saved by others while their leader hid in the palace?” “Even your grandfather, Chandragupta, was not afraid to hide,” Chanakya said. “He knew that…”
“Stop!” Asoka said, raising one hand. “Look well, Prime Minister! Look at who stands before you! I am not my grandfather. I do not look like him. I do not think like him. Nor do I speak like him. But I am sure about one thing. If he were in my shoes today, he would do the same as I.”
“You are making a mistake,” Chanakya told him. “You will regret it later.”
Asoka sighed. “I regret not doing this on the first day of the siege.”



About the Author:

Shreyas is a 21 year old guy currently pursuing his B.Tech in Electrical Eng. from VNIT Nagpur. His love for history since his childhood prompted him to write his take on the story of Asoka who was one of the towering figures in the history of India, which has been taken up as ‘The Asoka Trilogy’ by Leadstart Publishing.

The first part of the trilogy called ‘The Prince of Patliputra’ has been published in January 2016 and garnered positive responses.

He is also presently working on several other manuscripts and completing the final year of his engineering Course.

Connect with the Author:


15 August, 2018

#SpecialFeature :: Read an #Excerpt from Anon. by Bhavani Iyer



*** Special Feature - August 2018 ***


About the Book:
Welcome to Calcutta of the sixties and the seventies.

Meet Debottam, the genius vagabond son of a wealthy zamindar.

Meet Urbish, the ambitious dreamer whose father is a fisherman.
Walk with them through the red earth of Shantiniketan.

Visit the jazz clubs of Park Street.

Experience friendship redefined by two people who have only one thing in common writing.

But one is willing to kill to write and the other is willing to die.

Anon. Short for Anonymous.

After all what’s in a name?


Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Excerpt:

Deb lay on the grass outside his hostel building, flouting the ten p.m. deadline, unwilling to return to the cage of his room and the two other unknown faces occupying it, just yet. He looked up at the sky, as the voices of the young men singing their nightly Rabindra Sangeet travelled through the still night air towards him. He listened absently to the nightingales of habit and a feeling of absolute and utter alienation descended on him. He looked up at the night sky to save him. The song over, the young men moved into their respective rooms, and silence swooped down on the landscape like a powerful eagle on an unsuspecting prey. Deb felt overwhelmed by a need to get away, to escape the boundaries of what seemed like a beautiful vast cage, but a cage nonetheless.
He got to his feet and moved into the darkness farther and farther away from the others, from people and demands on his attention, his time, and his mind. He got to the gates of Shantiniketan, which were locked for the night. The lone watchman had packed up and left, not expecting any visitors. Or escapees.
Deb stood at the locked gate and hesitated for a moment. The romance and impetuosity of his action
had suddenly met with a stumbling block which seemed to rouse him from his reckless state of mind, albeit fractionally. Deb stood there, wondering which would be easier to scale—the gate or the wall—when a voice broke in through the darkness.
‘Is there someone waiting?’
Startled, Deb whirled around to see who it was and a moment later, saw a tall, young man leaning against a tree, watching Deb.
‘What?’ Deb asked, annoyed and irked at the intrusion.
‘You’re running away in the middle of the night from a place that doesn’t bind you in any way. There must be something wonderful waiting for you outside.’
‘Who the hell are you?’ Deb asked.
‘My name is Urbish. We’re in the same class.’ Urbish moved out of the shadows and stood by Deb, looking at him with such unruffled and mature calmness that it highlighted Deb’s whimsical spontaneity, making it seem like an immature and childish act of rebellion.
Deb quelled the urge to snap at Urbish and looked at him closely, wondering how he had never noticed Urbish before. Even in the dark, with the moonlight playing a coy bride, draping and shedding her veil at will, Deb couldn’t miss Urbish’s remarkable movie-star looks and his composed, restful demeanour utterly contrasting with Deb’s own restive, agitated edginess.
‘Deb . . . Debottam,’ Deb finally offered.
‘I know. We call you The Rolls-Royce Kid.’ A beat and then, ‘Speaking of which, since you seem to be leaving her behind, can you tell me where your car keys are?’
The silent splendour of Shantiniketan was broken a moment later as the two young men burst into laughter.
A sound so natural and so full of simple beautiful happiness that it hung in the air like invisible dewdrops long after they had stopped laughing. And for some strange reason, Deb once again felt at peace with the world.
A cheery little surge of high-voltage energy coursed through his innards, so potent and real he could feel its movement. He looked around him, at the darkness, at the gate, at the wall, and knew he didn’t want to leave.
Not just then, not just yet. He wondered if that made him abject and pathetic or just weak-willed and easily influenced.
Once again he thought of his father and wondered what he’d say.
Urbish fell into step alongside Deb as they both walked back towards their hostel.
‘There’s no one.’ Urbish looked at Deb, nonplussed.

‘No one waiting outside,’ Deb said. ‘No one at all.’ The words were soaked in wry melancholy. Urbish was silent.
‘Don’t you want to say “I told you so”? I know I would have.’ Urbish merely grinned in answer.
‘If you’re the kind who’s always right, I don’t think I’d particularly like to know you more,’ Deb said, a lopsided grin lending incredible softness to his face.
‘I’m not the kind who’s always right. But I don’t think you’d like me much anyway. I’m the kind that usually wins.’ Urbish’s smile took the sharpness off his words but retained the edge. He then added, ‘I was stuck for an end to my story for Ava-di, so I decided to take a walk. I’ve found what I wanted.’ He looked at Deb. ‘Have you finished your story?’
‘I haven’t started,’ Deb replied, smiling.
Urbish looked shocked, and yet seemed somehow pleased. ‘The class is at ten in the morning. It’s too late.’
‘I have all night,’ Deb shrugged.
‘You don’t really care, do you?’ Urbish asked, almost enviously. ‘I wish I had the luxury.’
‘I don’t know if I care about winning or being liked most by the professor,’ Deb replied, thoughtful,
earnest, wanting to give an honest reply. ‘But I do know that the world seems a better place, more tolerable, brighter, more vivid, more dazzling after I have created something that wasn’t there before. For that story, that piece of writing, that poem, that essay, I am the Maker. And that I care about very, very much.’

About the Author:
Bhavani Iyer started her career with Advertising as a Trainee Copywriter with a leading ad agency, iB&W Advertising. She then moved to journalism and had worked as the editor for the film magazine Stardust. She made her screenwriting debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black. She has collaborated on the screenplays for Bhansali's Guzaarish, Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera and the Indian version of Fox's hit show 24 (Indian TV series). She has also written the critically acclaimed Raazi, a spy drama that has been lauded for its sensitive depiction of cross-border espionage set during the India-Pakistan war of 1971.
She lives in Mumbai with her boyfriend, three dogs, and a cat.
Anon. is her first novel.



Giveaway:
3 Paperback copies of Anon. up for grabs for Indian Residents

a Rafflecopter giveaway

11 August, 2018

What Is It About Pirates? by Helen Hollick







Pirates have fascinated people for several centuries. The Master Terrorists of their age, the sailors of the early eighteenth century who went ‘On the Account’ hoping to gain a fortune often led a short, but exciting life. Albeit one supplemented by rum and debauchery. But how much is fact, and how much is fiction? Helen has written a series of nautical Voyages based around her fictional pirate, Captain Jesamiah Acorne and his ship, Sea Witch, but her latest UK release in paperback is a non-fiction book – Pirates: Truth and Tales published by Amberley Press, which explores our fascination with the real pirates and those who are favourites in fiction. Today, Helen drops anchor for another interesting addition to her on-line two-week Voyage around the Blogs with a pirate or two for company…

What is it about the Caribbean pirates of the early 1700s that compels us to dress up like them in fancy dress, or as near accurate detail as possible for re-enactments or festivals? Why do we have this fascination with the men (and a few women) who were thoroughly nasty – even evil – terrorists, murderers, rapists and thieves?

Hollywood, TV drama and novels are to blame, especially after the recent upsurge of interest when the first Disney franchise of The Pirates Of The Caribbean hit our screens with that scallywag scoundrel Jack Sparrow, portrayed by actor Johnny Depp. Even the baddies in that movie were likeable, loveable chaps! But that was the point of the movie, The Curse Of The Black Pearl, it was intended as family entertainment fun.


My own series of nautical adventures, the Sea Witch Voyages, follow the same theme, tongue-in-cheek sailor’s yarns, although written for adults, as they do include a darker, adult side with adult content. Again, intentional. As one Amazon reviewer (nicely) put it: “The story itself [Sea Witch] was surprisingly original. A work like this is always going to draw the inevitable comparisons with Jack Sparrow’s big screen adventures, but this is exceedingly more down to earth and possesses far more soul and charm. The two main characters were fresh and endearing, especially Tiola and their relationship and struggles leant real weight to this exciting tale. I’m quite thrilled about having several more of their stories to explore in the future.” Words which I am delighted with, of course.

When writing Pirates: Truth and Tales I set out to balance the what really happened in that Golden Age, against the lighter side of fiction and on-screen drama. I blended the chapters about the reality (neatly, I hope) with excerpts from fiction and sections about our beloved fictional characters. But novels and movies depicting what is, essentially, a fairy-tale view are very different from what was the reality.

Pirates were often driven into plundering merchant ships through poverty, necessity and opportunity. As sailors they mutinied if aboard a ship with a miserly captain, or became pirates when the choice was ‘join us or die.’ Only one of the more famous pirate captains, Edward Lowe, was known to be a criminal before he turned pirate. Several pirates were cruel, evil men, (especially Lowe.) Some were women. All were thieves and murderers.

Life in the 18th century was not easy for anyone except the gentry and the wealthy merchants. Poor food, dirty and cramped living conditions was the norm for the majority of people. Work was hard to find. Convicted criminals were hanged. They were the lucky ones, for few survived the depravation of gaol or transportation to the other side of the world – to the plantations of the American Colonies, for Captain James Cook was not due to ‘discover’ Australia until a good many years later than the early 1700s.

At the start of the 18th century, the world was opening up, new countries, new goods, were being found. Gold and other riches from the crumbled South American Empires funded the wealth of Spain and Europe, although most of it was spent on financing wars. The relatively new North American Colonies were emerging as lucrative tobacco, sugar and cotton plantations. The world’s oceans were becoming busy trade routes with ships getting bigger and faster, and the temptation to acquire ill-gotten plunder was an attractive prospect. Where there was trade, there were pirates. There still is.

There was all kinds of valuable stuff for the taking. The Prize was the ultimate goal; a heavily laden East Indiaman on her way home from the East Indies, or a Spanish Galleon ploughing across the Atlantic from Mexico to Spain, her hold groaning with treasure. Pursuit at sea could last from anything between an hour or two to several days, but the Prize had to be an easy target, one that would surrender without putting up a fight. Pirates had fast ships, guns, and bravado by the bucket-load. They made a noise, a lot of it, and a great amount of intimidation, shouting and jeering, banging anything that came to hand. The wise captain of a pursued ship gave in quickly, showed where the goods were stowed and made no resistance. Put up a fight, however, and pirates could turn nasty. Very nasty.



With a hold filled with looted booty the destination for any pirate crew was the nearest town that had an adequate harbour with taverns and brothels a-plenty. Few pirates became rich for most of them spent their ill-gotten gain almost as soon as they gained it. Many pirates were riddled with sexual diseases. Nearly all were permanently drunk. A pistol shot or the hangman’s noose awaited most of them. It was a short life, but, apparently, a merry one.

I’ve written five novels in my Sea Witch series, six if you count an e-book novella (When The Mermaid Sings) with the next adventure, Gallows Wake, half completed as I write this. And I have written Pirates: Truth And Tales, a factual book with excerpts from fiction, but the question remains: why this fascination that we have for pirates?

If ever I discover the answer, I’ll let you know.

You know I'm bad, I'm bad - come on, you know
(Bad bad - really, really bad)
And the whole world has to
Answer right now
Just to tell you once again,
Who's bad...
Michael Jackson’s words sum pirates up very well.
The real pirates were bad. Really, really bad.

© Helen Hollick

Pirates: Truth And Tales published in paperback in the UK July 2018 and November 2018 in the US – but available for pre-order.

Buy the Books: Amazon Author Page (Universal Link) viewAuthor.at/HelenHollick

Sign up for Helen’s Newsletter and be entered for an annual prize draw.
One name ‘picked from the hat’ in December will win a £10/$10 Amazon gift voucher.

LINKS:
Twitter: @HelenHollick



Follow Helen’s Tour:
These links will take you to the Home Page of each blog host – Helen says thank you for their interest and enthusiasm! For exact URL links to each article go to Helen’s website:  www.helenhollick.net  which will be updated every day of the tour.

30th July: Cryssa Bazos  https://cryssabazos.com/ Dropping Anchor to Talk About Pirates
31st July: Anna Belfrage  https://annabelfrage.wordpress.com/ Ships That Pass…
1st August: Carolyn Hughes https://carolynhughesauthor.com/blog/ Pirates of the Middle Ages
2nd August: Alison Morton   https://alison-morton.com/blog/ From Pirate to Emperor
3rd August: Annie Whitehead https://rwranniewhitehead.blogspot.com/ The Vikings: Raiders or Pirates?
4th August: Tony Riches http://tonyriches.blogspot.co.uk/ An Interview With Helen Hollick (and maybe a couple of pirates thrown in for good measure?)
5th August: Lucienne Boyce http://francesca-scriblerus.blogspot.com/ Anne and Mary. Pirates.
6th August: Laura Pilli http://fieldofbookishdreams.blogspot.co.uk/ Why Pirates?
7th August: Mary Tod https://awriterofhistory.com/ That Essential Element… For A Pirate.
8th August: Pauline Barclay http://paulinembarclay.blogspot.com/ Writing Non-Fiction. How Hard Can It Be?   
9th August: Nicola Smith http://shortbookandscribes.uk/ Pirates: The Tales Mixed With The Truth
10th August: Christoph Fischer https://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/ In The Shadow Of The Gallows
11th August: Debdatta http://www.ddsreviews.in/ What Is It About Pirates?
12th August: Discovering Diamonds https://discoveringdiamonds.blogspot.co.uk/ It’s Been An Interesting Voyage…
13th August: Sarah Greenwood https://www.amberley-books.com/blog Pirates: The Truth and the Tales
14th August: Antoine Vanner https://dawlishchronicles.com/dawlish-blog/ The Man Who Knew About Pirates


ABOUT HELEN: 

Helen moved from London in 2013 and now lives with her family in North Devon, in an eighteenth century farmhouse. First published in 1994, her passion now is her pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne of the nautical adventure series, The Sea Witch Voyages. Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (UK title A Hollow Crown) the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (US title I Am The Chosen King) explores the events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely praised as a more down-to-earth historical version of the Arthurian legend. She has written three non-fiction books, Pirates: Truth and Tales, Smugglers in Fact and Fiction (to be published 2019) and as a supporter of indie writers, co-wrote Discovering the Diamond with her editor, Jo Field, a short advice guide for new writers. She runs the Discovering Diamonds review blog for historical fiction assisted by a team of enthusiastic reviewers. 
Helen is published in various languages.


08 August, 2018

#SpecialFeature - #Review :: Anon. by Bhavani Iyer



*** Special Feature - August 2018 ***


About the Book:
Welcome to Calcutta of the sixties and the seventies.

Meet Debottam, the genius vagabond son of a wealthy zamindar.

Meet Urbish, the ambitious dreamer whose father is a fisherman.
Walk with them through the red earth of Shantiniketan.

Visit the jazz clubs of Park Street.

Experience friendship redefined by two people who have only one thing in common writing.

But one is willing to kill to write and the other is willing to die.

Anon. Short for Anonymous.

After all what’s in a name?


Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

My Review:

Going into Anon. by Bhavani Iyer I had no idea about what to expect. With two acclaimed movies (Black & Raazi) under her belt as the screen writer, I guess all I was expecting was entertainment. Other than that, I kept an open mind about the book.

Anon. sets up the story of two friends in the backdrop of 60’s in Calcutta & Shantiniketan. Urbish and Debottam had nothing in common if their background was to be compared. One came from an impoverished family while the other was the son of a Zamindaar. Their friendship is held together in place because of their love for words and interest in writing. Even then they are only willing to go to two very different extremes to fulfill their dream. Will their friendship stand the test of time? Will either of them be able to fulfill their dreams?

I cannot but help deviate from my usual reviewing style and instead of commenting on the characters first, I’d like to shake things up and talk about the author’s style of storytelling and language. It is beautiful. I had heard a lot of stories about Calcutta in 1960s and 1970s thanks to my mother. So while I already had some idea about the city in those times, the author’s language and narrative made the city come alive in my mind. The little nuances about the society back then really helped me ‘live’ through the story with Urbish and Debottam. The author’s language is impressive and she has this style of describing things with simple words that create a very realistic picture in the reader’s mind.

The characterization in the book has been done to perfection. Each of the two protagonists got ample time and development and their oddities only made them feel more real. Urbish and Debottam are such clashing personalities that they provide the readers with quite an entertainment. If Urbish is calm wind on the summer evening then Debottam is the storm that hits hard. They kind of complement each other in a way and balance each other out. The supporting casts got enough of the limelight to make their contributions to the story. I quite liked Moyna too.

The book was an emotional one that got me so caught up at moments that it actually left me with a slight hangover. I loved almost everything about the book. If I had to nit-pick something about the book it would the climax of the book. I kind of felt something was out of place or just that it wasn’t a hundred percent of what it could be. I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone with an interest in contemporary fiction.



About the Author:
Bhavani Iyer started her career with Advertising as a Trainee Copywriter with a leading ad agency, iB&W Advertising. She then moved to journalism and had worked as the editor for the film magazine Stardust. She made her screenwriting debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black. She has collaborated on the screenplays for Bhansali's Guzaarish, Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera and the Indian version of Fox's hit show 24 (Indian TV series). She has also written the critically acclaimed Raazi, a spy drama that has been lauded for its sensitive depiction of cross-border espionage set during the India-Pakistan war of 1971.
She lives in Mumbai with her boyfriend, three dogs, and a cat.
Anon. is her first novel.



Giveaway:
3 Paperback copies of Anon. up for grabs for Indian Residents

a Rafflecopter giveaway

03 August, 2018

#BookReview - To Hell and Back by Anurag Anand

To Hell and Back by Anurag Anand
A mindless road-rage incident leaves a young and promising entrepreneur dead. Is it an accident, or a cold-blooded murder, planned to absolute perfection? 

Namrata, a young professional, is enveloped by all the quintessential elements of life in the fast lane—a staling marriage, an extramarital affair and eyes full of dreams, until a fun evening turns into a chilling nightmare for her.

Renu, a girl living in a world marred by regressive customs and dated practices, has resigned to the patriarchal ways of her world, until they begin to cast their malicious shadows on her unborn child.

Their worlds, although separate, intersect each other in a single strike of tragedy that none could have imagined. It is then that this story begins and sends everyone’s life on a dizzy tailspin…

Will they be able to get back to their safe and secure lives?

To Hell and Back is a fast-paced thriller that will not only keep you on tenterhooks till the very end, but it shall also rattle your beliefs on how ‘crime-proof’ the world that you live in truly is.


First, a road rage situation that claims the life of Akash, an entrepreneur, and makes the headlines on every major media outlet in the country. Second, a dreamer and a professional girl in Namrata yearns for more from her life. Third, a quiet and submissive girl in Renu turns to a rebel when another life dependent on her needs her to fight. Three lives, three personalities and three very different fates. After Akash’s life is cut short, the focus lands on Namrata and Renu… what threads can bring them together when they live such different lives at all levels? And does fate truly control everything?

The book had me intrigued right from the blurb. A male author writing about two very different lives lead on by two very different female characters... Can he do justice? Or would it end up feeling like every other male voice that stereotypes women? Also, the burning question in my mind while going into the book was how the ‘death’ of Akash could bring these two women together?

It turned out that I quite enjoyed reading the book. Both Namrata and Renu had their quirks and charms. Namrata is a bold and independent woman who likes to question everything. Renu is a self-conscious housewife who is used to having the patriarchal norms run her life. Their individual stories ran parallel to each other giving each of them the time and space to grow till it is time for their stories to intersect. And when it does, the readers are taken for a ride. While I wouldn’t say that the characterization of the protagonists has been done to perfection, it was quite close. There are some secondary characters thrown in to provide not only a variety in characters but also help provide different perspectives on the same situation.

The author has done a great job in setting up the plot. It is done perfectly to keep the readers guessing. At no point did I lose sight of where the story was headed. For some of the readers though, there are a bunch of twists and turns waiting in these pages that a more experienced reader may be able to spot early on. But I have to say, I was expecting more from the climax. With the kind of build up the book has right from the beginning, I was expecting goosebumps at the final revelation. Instead it fell a bit bland when compared to the rest of the book. That is the only point where the book did not meet my expectations.

All in all, an entertaining read…


Review Copy received from the Author